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Prague: ARTĚL Style

Expert recommendations and insider tips for first-time visitors and locals alike from ARTĚL’s founder, Karen Feldman, who has lived in Prague since 1994. Click on the links below for detailed reviews – from Feldman’s own unique perspective – of all the best that Prague has to offer...

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Once Upon a Time at Christmas

Published on December 18th, 2014 in Entertainment

  • Still from Playing with the Devil (photo courtesy of www.stayfortea.com)

  • The Three Gifts for Cinderella, Movie Poster (photo courtesy of http://moviegeek.org)

  • Still from The Proud Princess (photo courtesy of www.pohadkar.cz)

  • Costumes from Playing with the Devil, on display at Strahov Monastery

  • Costumes on display at Strahov Monastery

  • Still from Playing with the Devil (photo courtesy of www.stayfortea.com)

 

While all over Europe people are carving up fish for Christmas Eve dinner and waiting for their own version of Father Christmas to arrive—in Czech it's Ježíšek or Baby Jesus who delivers the goods—there is one aspect of the holiday season here that I find truly delightful and very Czech: binge watching pohádky, or Christmas fairytales!

 

The nation's love of live-action fairytales dates back to the 1950's when these stories were first adapted for the screen. A mix of Slavic folk tales and the traditional Western European fairytales we all know and love, they have been broadcast throughout the day on December 24, the Czech Christmas, ever since.

 

Possibly the most well-known and beloved for its magical winter setting is The Three Gifts for Cinderella (1973). It has even achieved a bit of international acclaim. (This clip is from a UK version that was dubbed into English):

 

 

 

 

The fairy tales are not always holiday-themed, but colorful and festive all the same. And they are not always Czech fairytales for that matter; following the Velvet Revolution (1989), modern-day fairytales like the American film Pretty Woman made it into the holiday-viewing rotation. Yes, you read it correctly, Julia Roberts' star turn as a hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold is included in the line-up of prime time Czech holiday viewing.

 

Another big hit is Playing with the Devil (1954) an adaptation of an original play by Jan Drda which features over-the-top costumes and sets designed by the iconic Czech illustrator Josef Lada.

 

 

 

 

If you are really interested in the history behind these productions, I recommend an exhibit that is currently going on at Strahov Monastery, itself highly worthy of a visit for it's breathtaking library and peaceful grounds. Costumes from many of these fairytales, taken from the props department at Barrandov Studios, the legendary Czech film production company, will be on display through December 31. That includes the dress worn here in the first-ever televised Czech fairytale, The Proud Princess (1952):

 

  

 

 

While I'd say that it is only for those who are true enthusiasts of the genre, the exhibit is English-friendly and also features life-sized “your-face-here” cardboard cut-outs of fairytale film stills which make for a campy photo opp (ideal for your next Christmas card, perhaps?).

 

If you do settle in with some Czech fairy tales this holiday season they are, of course, to be enjoyed with plenty of mulled wine and cukroví, Czech Christmas cookies!

 

 

How Fairy Tales Dress Up

Strahov Monastery
Strahovské nádvoří 1/132, Prague 1
www.strahovskyklaster.cz/ 
hours  Daily 9:30-11:30 and 12:00-17:00 (closed December 24-25)
tram 22 to Pohořelec
admission 120 CZK

 

 

 

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