Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’


Sitting on Santa’s lap? Not in this country

In Winter on November 30, 2011 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: ,

How does one convince their son or daughter that Christmas presents are not purchased by adults when the kids see people with wrapped gifts in malls or on the streets everywhere? It is harder and harder to retell the story about  Santa or the more traditional gift-giver, Christkind. The latter is invisible and immaterial and nobody actually “knows” what the figure looks like but the former is, of course, the straight out of an American made-for-TV family comedy about Christmas Santa Claus. While the Czech Republic has adopted Santa as a Christmas figure, his prominence is much smaller. For example, the sitting on Santa’s lap is virtually non-existent. It is only practiced in a handful of shopping malls around the country (my guess would be five to ten, and I could possibly name all of them). Coincidentally, this Christmas tradition was recently banned in the United Kingdom.

The fact that Christkind can still beat Santa in terms of the number of fans and followers is probably the reason why Santa is more of a fairytale character. According to a 2009 research, 87 percent of children believe that Christkind brings the presents. No Czech kid knows the names of his reindeer. Only a few (who have taken English classes taught by a native speaker) can probably name Rudolph. In addition, most Czech kids stick to Christkind due to the fact that Santa appears too human and he is often portrayed as having made, purchased, wrapped and transported the presents. Christkind, on the other hand, is much more virtual, which gives kids more room for imagination…


Family movies and the Santa Claus existence dilemma

In Culture,History,Life,Religion,Winter on December 25, 2010 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: , , ,

Christmas on network TV stations in the Czech Republic (i.e. non-cable stations like Czech Television, TV Nova and TV Prima) is represented by two separate avalanches of movie production: one, an avalanche of Christmas-themed “family movies” about separated families getting together, about children meeting Santa Claus whose existence they questioned, or about men being with wrong women and finally meeting and falling for the right women.  And two, an avalanche of classic Czech non-cartoon fairytales from the 1970’s and 1980’s – with kingdoms and princes and ordinary peasant girls they fall for… etc.

The programming schemes are often very odd in terms of the whole Christmas message 🙂 For example, at 8:30 a.m. there was a family movie about a father who spends hours searching for the perfect gift he knows his son wants. Ergo, the movie says there is no Santa Claus and that presents are purchased by parents. The entire movie almost ignores the figure of Santa… And two hours later the same TV station offers the typical Santa movie.

Kids who spent all day watching TV and who are still convinced that there is no Santa Claus must be really confused. Naturally, it is not the role of TV programs to tell them the truth.

Moreover, practically all American family movies feature families living in houses with huge bay windows and chimneys/fireplaces, which of course confuses Czech kids even more… Most Czechs live in apartment buildings with central heating…

Photo downloaded from


Christmas markets: hot wine, hand-made products, skating

In Culture,Winter on December 17, 2010 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: , , ,

The Christmas market in the city of Olomouc is traditional. A “tiny city” of wooden booths is built and vendors can move in to sell Christmas-y stuff (decorations, candles, hand-made jewelry…) and tasty “fast food” products (fried curled potatoes, hash browns) …and especially hot wine of various flavors (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic). In some cities, including Olomouc, this holiday scenery is improved by a temporary ice skating rink. The one in Olomouc can take up to thirty skaters who pay a small per-hour fee. There are three rinks in Brno, but not directly next to the Christmas market(s).

In the past years, some municipalities failed to keep the markets and their organizers under control. Some booths sold underwear and pyjamas and low-quality Chinese toys. People complained, so this time it is really just Christmas-y merchandise, food and beverages and artists’ own products.


Communist song used in TV Prima’s Polar Express teaser

In Culture,Entertainment,Music on December 8, 2010 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: , ,

TV Prima’s “secondary” channel named Prima Cool is known for unorthodox visual style, so as to appeal to younger audiences. However, today I saw a teaser trailer for Polar Express, which is a family movie, if not a Christmas fairytale for children. For some reason, the background music for the teaser was The Internationale, which is the official “anthem” of social democrats, communists, the former Soviet Union (1922 to 1944), etc. I will have to ask the spokesperson of the TV station about it…



PF: a unique Czech version of Happy New Year

In Culture,Life,Winter on December 3, 2010 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: , , , ,

It is almost time to start sending out Christmas cards. In Czech, the phrase “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year” is often abbreviated as PF 2011. The abbreviation is French and stands for “pour féliciter” – which is a phrase that is not used anywhere else. Not even in France…

at least according to Wiktionary. The origin of this phrase in the Czech language is disputed. One theory says that it was first used centuries ago when noblemen spoke French (it was a part their “higher education”) and it somehow survived.

However, the problem often arises when companies send out their corporate greeting cards to their foreign partners – and they leave the “PF 2011” in the foreign-language version, along with the proper “Merry Christmas…” wish. Foreigners have no idea what the initialism means…


Survey: more Czechs will give money as Christmas presents

In Culture,Economy on November 24, 2010 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: , , , ,

Instead of neat packages with Christmas motifs, many Czechs will find a stuffed envelope or gift certificates under (well, on is more like it) their Christmas trees. According to a recent survey some people realized that the only way to gift something the recipient really wants is to have them buy it themselves, most usually AFTER Christmas when discounts and sales hit the stores.

It probably has something to do with the financial crisis (people really do not want to buy pointless gifts) or with the fact that most adult-aged people realized that they have everything they really need (exceptions apply, of course). Plus, we do not seem to have a period of any real in-style gift or category of gifts that everybody would want.

The only drawback is that it kind of defies the traditional gift exchange and the whole gave-it-some-thought behind it. In families with healthy relationships (or among real friends) this should not be a problem.


Christmas traditions changing: goodbye carp, hello turkey

In Culture,History,Winter on December 20, 2009 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: , , , , ,

(c) Green Farm Hotel, Norfolk, UK

For decades, generations, even, breaded fried carp with potato salad has been the number-one Christmas Eve dinner. People who do not like carp, or who just do not want to fight with bones and risk swallowing one (dozens of people end up visiting an emergency room with a bone stuck in their throat), have fish fillets (boneless) instead.

Today I went by a butcher’s that had a huge specially made sign that said “Now taking orders for Christmas turkeys”.

Now, that’s new.

I am sure there have been families (not necessarily expats) that have turkey instead of fish, but so far I haven’t seen any business take care of these special needs, especially since it is possible to buy turkey any day of the year. So it does look like a signal that the number of Czech turkey-loving families is increasing… Czechs are known for “stealing other nations’ holidays”  (Halloween and jack-o-lanterns are the most recent example) so it might not take long…

In the Czech Republic Christmas presents are opened on December 24 after dinner. So far, at least…


Christmas spirit in Vienna

In Photography,Travel,Winter,World on November 30, 2009 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: , ,

(c) Petr Bokuvka

The main part of the Vienna market is situated in front of the city hall (Rathaus) building.

(c) Petr Bokuvka

Christmas tree decorations, toys, candles, hand-made gifts, jewelry, hand-made stationery…

(c) Petr Bokuvka

…and of course hot wine, whipped cream rolls, pretzels, candy, Sacher Torte, etc. The latter is not pictured here as the “huts” were always surrounded by crowds of people waiting patiently in lines…


The Brno Christmas market starts today, and the mayor promised changes

In Brno,Economy,Winter on November 27, 2009 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: , , ,

The famous Brno Christmas market starts today. After years of bummer and bad reputation, the Mayor promised this year should be different.

For years the market was operated by a private company which could dictate the product categories to be sold in the wooden “huts” on the main square. People wanted traditions and the Christmas spirit, but many of the huts sold pyjamas, cheap underwear and other junk.

The city government argued that it had practically no control over the products. It became apparent that the municipality had concluded  a bad contract and there was no way to back out of it and almost all citizens of Brno had to wait for the contract to expire.

Christmas market photos coming up…


Tesco put up Christmas decorations on October 27. Is anyone out of their mind?

In Brno,Economy on October 31, 2009 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: , ,


(c) Petr Bokuvka

Some people in Tesco probably think that the first company or store that reminds people of the upcoming Christmas will win the most customers and have them spend money. Tesco in downtown Brno put up Christmas decorations this week, i.e. almost two months before the Christmas Eve and one month “before winter”.

The store even has a TREE in the lobby.

This particular store is an old-fashioned department store. It has aisles with Tupperware next to groceries or underwear. The goods are usually “no name” and the atmosphere is absolutely terrible… Especially the clothes are hideous…

Be it as it may, having a Christmas tree in late October is ridiculous. Of course, it is a business strategy but in terms of holidays and observances it totally destroys the spirit…

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