Carp in a Bathtub and Carp Massacre at Christmas in Prague
Christmas Prague and carp are intrinsically connected. This makes the Christmas menu very easy for the Czech housewife. She never needs to think what to serve for dinner on Christmas Eve: carp and potato salad are always on the menu. In early December, large basins full of live carp appear on every street corner in Prague. Customers select one and take it home in a plastic bag and release in the bathtub because carps are best when eaten fresh.
No Bath at Christmas: Carps in your tub!
This means that many Czechs don’t take a bath during the days before Christmas. Not all people like to massacre their own carp and leave the killing to the vendor who catches the fish in a net, weighs it and cuts off the head in one blow. The head is used to make carp soup. The rest of the year, they swim in the fish ponds of Trebon in the South Bohemian Region. Christmas in Prague is not complete if you don’t have a fish in your bathtub!
Carp and Christmas
Carp for Christmas is not as strange as it seems. In Christianity fish have a religious symbolism. Christ fed 5,000 with two fish and five loaves. He called his disciples ‘fishers of men.’ Fish should be eaten on fasting days. Christmas Eve is a fasting evening so carp is on the menu. One carp is enough for the whole family as there is sufficient meat between the bones to feed all.
Fish Scales Bring Luck
The father of the family strips the scales from the carp, cuts the fish into thick pieces that are prepared like schnitzel, coated in flour, egg and breadcrumbs and then fried. The scales are not thrown away but placed under the plate from which the carp is eaten. Having a few scales in your wallet means that you will have no money worries for a whole year.
Christmas in Prague: Czech Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve is spent with family. The table is laid for one person extra in case an unexpected guest arrives. After the meal, the children anxiously wait for Little Baby Jesus to bring presents. The tinkle of a bell announces the arrival of the presents. After unwrapping and admiring the gifts, many Czechs go to Midnight Mass even though most of them are not religious. Christmas Day and St Stephen’s Day are spent at home or visiting family and relatives. The traditional dishes on these two days are roast goose or duck served with sauerkraut and potato dumplings.
Eat Carp in a Restaurant
You will find live carp sellers in front of Kotva Department store in Republic Square, Námestí Republiky, close to the old town. And in many other places, often just outside metro stations. If you don’t fancy having a carp in your bathtub, celebrate Christmas Eve in a restaurant. Dine in style in Restaurants Mlýnec or Pálffy Palác. Be sure to order carp!