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The Christmas Carp, A Czech Tradition

by Spicie Foodie on December 22, 2011

Czech Christmas Carp
Over the past week, or so, I’ve truly enjoyed reading people’s Christmas traditions. I find it fascinating how every country or family makes this holiday special for their families. So many of you have been preparing for days if not weeks. Food, of course, plays an integral part of the festivities.

Czech Christmas Carp
When we lived in the states our Christmas dinners were everything from tamales, turkey, goose or prime rib. Depending on which parent’s house we were at the food and celebratory activities also changed. After we moved to Europe our traditional Christmas dinner became goose, homemade pumpkin pie, loads of cookies, fresh baked breads, fresh seasonal vegetables, hot chocolate, red or mulled wine. For the most part it has remained the same as our Mexican, American-melting pot traditions. This year we want to change it up and so we will be having a traditional Czech Christmas meal.

Czech Christmas Carp
The Czech Christmas meal is so different from what we are used to. Carp is the Christmas meal of choice. That is fried carp served with potato salad, a soup, plenty of cookies and sweets. Yes, I know when many of you hear/read carp you cringe. But one must remember to have an open mind and respect other people’s traditions. I for one am so excited to experience some Czech Christmas culture and tradition.

Czech Christmas Carp
Czechs celebrate Christmas on the 24th of December. They eat their Christmas dinner and open presents on the 24th. Like in Mexico, Czech children grow up with the story of baby Jesus being the one who delivers the presents. Of course due to this modern globalized world we live in Santa Claus is on many adverts and products. Honestly I couldn’t tell you what Czech parents tell their children about Santa. Though not for religious reasons I hope Czechs stick with tradition and continue with Ježíšek (baby Jesus) as the gift giver.

Czech Christmas Carp
Another Czech tradition I hope does not get lost is the Carp tradition. Let’s talk about how the Carp makes it to the Christmas table. Several days before the 24th Carp sellers pop up around the country. The Carp sellers or stalls consist of several large vats filled with live Carp and water. There is a large table where the carb is killed and prepared if you like. But the tradition is that families buy their Carp fresh a day, or so, before and cook it fresh on the 24th. Those who buy the Carp live will fill the bathtub up with water and have a family pet for a day or two.

Czech Christmas Carp
When I’ve spoken to young Czech friends they admitted to me that they eat Christmas Carp out of tradition and not out of pleasure. Apparently Czechs are divided into two groups, those that like and enjoy Carp and those that do not enjoy it at all. Some friends have told me that instead of Carp they’ll eat Schnitzel, or now with the availability of imported fish they’ll substitute the Carp with an imported fish.

I for one have never tried Carp so I can’t give you my opinion just yet. Sunday we will be going out for our Czech Christmas Carp. Afterwards I can report back the whole experience. I’m going into it with excitement because I am always up for something new. But also going into it warily. My hubby on the other hand is feeling, and I quote ” trepidation”. I guess we will see.


I loved this video made by a Czech on the Christmas Carp tradition. But if you need something lighter than the slightly gruesome video above, watch this Chuck Norris video. See how he handles the Czech Christmas tradition.

For now I say Feliz Navidad, Vesele Vanoce and a very Merry Christmas!!

in European,Fish/Seafood,Holidays

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

1 M. G. Frederic December 22, 2011 at 2:02 PM

Very interesting, I love learning about other cultures. Thanx for the share.

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2 Spicie Foodie December 22, 2011 at 2:12 PM

Thanks for stopping by :)

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3 Jenne December 22, 2011 at 2:02 PM

Love the story and looking forward to hearing your opinion of the carp and potato salad.

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4 Spicie Foodie December 22, 2011 at 2:12 PM

Thank you Jenne. Wish me luck ;)

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5 Tina@flourtrader December 22, 2011 at 7:23 PM

Very interesting post here and now you got me wondering what your final verdict on the Carp for Christmas tradition. Cool that they don’t have Santa but baby Jesus bringing presents. Glad I stopped in to read-enjoyed your post.
Happy holidays!

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6 Spicie Foodie December 22, 2011 at 9:56 PM

Thank you Tina. I can’t wait to report back in a few days. Happy holidays to you too!

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7 Hyosun Ro December 23, 2011 at 1:33 AM

Great post! I really enjoyed reading about a Czech tradition. Also, the photos brought back the memories of my trip to Prague a couple of years ago. Hope you enjoy the Christmas Carp!

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8 Spicie Foodie December 23, 2011 at 8:43 AM

Thank you and glad to hear it brought back memories for you:)

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9 Trix December 23, 2011 at 5:24 PM

I had carp fillet with cumin butter at Lokal when we were in Prague – I really liked it, so don’t be nervous!!! I am sure that whatever you do with it, it will be lovely. : )

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10 Spicie Foodie December 26, 2011 at 7:01 PM

Trix, I also really liked it. We didn’t make our own, we went out to eat. Thanks I’ll have to check out Lokal’s Kapr soon.

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11 Ann December 24, 2011 at 2:50 AM

Thank you for sharing the Czech Traditional meal! Merry Christmas!

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12 Spicie Foodie December 26, 2011 at 7:02 PM

My pleasure Ann :)

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13 Helene Dsouza I Masala Herb December 24, 2011 at 4:52 AM

whats wrong with Carp? Its one of my favourite fish. I didnt know that it is a christmas tradition there. Enjoyed the information, photos and the video.

They have similiar traditions in austria for christmas. There is no santa claus only baby jesus. Saint Nikolaus was on the 6th dec. and thats when u get choco gifts. if u were naughty u wont get anything and u ll be taken by the demons on the 5 th Dec. hihi
i my family, we used to selebrate it mixed, since we are french too. So presents opening was on the 25 like in france and “Pere Noel” (Father Christmas) would come.

Merry Christmas to u and your family Nancy! =)

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14 Spicie Foodie December 26, 2011 at 7:04 PM

Hi Helene, I think it is just a cultural biased. Having finally tried carp I can say the bad reputation is unjust. It was just as good as other fish, we both really liked it. Your traditions sound very similar to local traditions. Hope your Christmas was nice :)

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15 Ramona December 24, 2011 at 8:26 AM

What a great tradition!! Hope you are having a wonderful day!! Merry Christmas!! ~ Ramona

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16 Spicie Foodie December 26, 2011 at 7:04 PM

Thank you Ramona :)

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17 anna December 24, 2011 at 6:27 PM

carp! i’m so bad with fish, but when it’s a tradition, i don’t know, i think i could do it :)

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18 Spicie Foodie December 26, 2011 at 7:05 PM

I’m the opposite of you, I love seafood :) Now having tried it I would be happy to continue with the tradition.

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19 Sandra's Easy Cooking December 25, 2011 at 12:32 AM

Great post!!!!!!! Have a Merry Christmas sweetie!!!!!!!!

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20 Spicie Foodie December 26, 2011 at 7:07 PM

Thanks and you too!

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21 Ruth December 25, 2011 at 10:19 AM

I am stopping by to wish you a Merry Christmas! And also, to let you know I just got the lighting kit you recommended this week and I love it! Thank you!

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22 Spicie Foodie December 26, 2011 at 7:08 PM

Hi Ruth, Thank you and I hope yours was lovely. Really? That is great. I hope you have loads of fun playing with it. Let me know.

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23 Trix December 26, 2011 at 7:20 PM

Of course it says you’re going out … my reading comprehension ain’t what it used to be!!

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24 Spicie Foodie December 26, 2011 at 7:23 PM

Lol, I do that all the time too :)

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25 Kiri W. December 29, 2011 at 9:18 AM

Oh my, I remember my dad making one once, though for the second day of Christmas (in Germany we get the 26th off, too), and it was delicious, yet such a mess with the fishbones!

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26 Spicie Foodie December 29, 2011 at 9:44 AM

Fortunately we didn’t have many bones. Glad you also liked it:-)

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27 Magic of Spice December 30, 2011 at 7:25 PM

Interesting…carp are ornamental fish here, so I would never have though they would be a holiday meal :) I am so curious to see what you thought!

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28 Spicie Foodie December 30, 2011 at 8:45 PM

My husband said that too but now I associate them with Christmas.

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29 Brno Chris December 26, 2012 at 3:03 PM

Glad you enjoyed it, just remember that most bones are near the tail, and fingers are all ways best. And as a side comment, Santa Claus = Saint Micholous (excuse spelling), it was us westerners that moved His day from the 6th of December to the 25th.

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