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Celebrating New Year’s in a Czech Mountain Chata

Published on December 31th, 2014 in Entertainment

  • Multitasking, c. 1975 (photo courtesy of www.lkpraha.cz)

  • Toasting to the New Year, c. 1957 (photo courtesy of www.lidovky.cz)

  • Lining up to ski, c. 1980s (photo courtesy of http://rimmer.zcu.cz)

  • Fireworks in the mountains (photo courtesy of www.travelvcely.cz)

 

If you happen to be in town over the New Year’s Eve holiday you may just notice that, outside of the city center, Prague is a pretty quiet place. That’s because a number of its citizens escape to mountain ski cottages (called chata in Czech) to ring in the New Year. Curious to know more about how this holiday is celebrated in true Czech style, I turned to my staff for an explanation. Lucie (our Office Manager), Daniela (our CFO), and Kateřina (our Client Services Manager) all had slightly differing responses, but there was, however, one theme that tied all of their answers together – drinking to excess! Here’s what else the ARTĚL office had to say about welcoming the New Year the Czech way:

 

Why do Czechs leave the city for the mountains on New Year’s Eve?

 

Lucie: I think Prague people try to avoid downtown, nowadays. It’s very noisy and there are a lot of strange, drunk and not very pleasant people there. [We] want to be in small groups of close family or friends in more peaceful surroundings.

 

Daniela: It is mainly about spending time with friends and family; here in the Czech Republic about half of the population have cottages.

 

Kateřina: Because there is nothing like being outside in the fresh mountain air in your T-shirt, surrounded by friends, talking and catching up until you are ready for another round! Also you can get all-inclusive trips on this holiday for a very good price.

 

Is there a history behind the tradition?

 

Kateřina: Yes – during the communist era everyone had a job and a panelák [high-rise] flat in a crowded block in Prague. Almost every single company had one or more company-owned cottages in the mountains and if you were a good worker you got to spend New Year’s Eve there with your colleagues and friends outside of Prague almost for free. I believe this was one of the few opportunities to go skiing during the winter. People have kept the tradition.

 

 

 

Skiing in Bedřichov, c.1960s (photo courtesy of http://transpressnz.blogspot.cz/) 

 

What do you do up there in the mountains?

 

Daniela: Meet people, talk with them, and drink. And ski.

 

Lucie: Usually two groups (older parents and the younger children) separate and then just hang out and chat, because they may not have seen one another for the whole year. Together they play a lot of games and sing songs. And drink.

 

Kateřina: Ski, drink during skiing, sled with kids, eat and drink some more. During the New Year’s Eve celebration there is more drinking, singing, and playing games. I remember a game where everyone is dancing in pairs, pressing an orange or a balloon between their bodies and trying to hold onto it as the music gets quicker. My parents liked to play musical chairs. Then comes the toast and fireworks. [Note: No professional fireworks production, these pyrotechnics are typically bought in bulk and personally set off by tipsy Czechs!]

 

 

 Childrens sleigh races, c.1945 (photo courtesy  of www.ceskatelevize.cz)

 

How exactly do you ring in the New Year – any special traditions?

 

Lucie: The traditional food would probably be chlebíčky. Small slices of bread with ham, cheese, pickles, eggs… Also a lot of potato chips and bread sticks and Christmas cookies, if you still have some. At the stroke of midnight a glass of champagne and a new year’s kiss.

 

Kateřina: Usually we just count down, pop the bottle and start with fireworks. You definitely need to have a bottle of Czech Bohemia Sek champagne! Nibbles – pickles, grilled sausages, chlebíčky, potato chips, something fatty so that you can consume more booze – are also important to the celebration.

 

And, like the rest of the world, you spend New Year’s Day recovering, right?

 

Lucie: There is a Czech saying “Jak na nový rok, tak po celý rok” which means something like “What you do on New Year’s day, you’ll do every day the next year.” That means that you should not work. No cleaning up the house or washing the clothes. Mostly people just sleep after a looong night.

 

Kateřina: You sleep late after a night of booze and usually take a walk after lunch. Depending on your region of the Republic you might make special food. We in Krkonoše [a mountain range in northern Bohemia] eat lentils with fried egg – lentils are associated with coins, so you shall have a lot money in the New Year.


 

 

 

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