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New Year in Czechia: Intriguing customs and traditional dishes

New Year in Czechia: Intriguing customs and traditional dishes New Year in Prague (Photo:
Author: Daria Shekina

New Year's is celebrated loudly and often with large gatherings in Czechia. The holiday holds numerous customs and traditions that Czech families observe.

RBC-Ukraine tells about how the start of the new year is celebrated in this country and what dishes can be seen on the table, based on

In Czechia, preparations for New Year's Eve start on December 31, which is also celebrated as Saint Sylvester's Day. That's why New Year's is often referred to as Sylvester. This holiday isn't as much about family as it is about friends. While older people gather at home with their families on New Year's Eve, the younger crowd often chooses to celebrate among peers.

Czechs staying at home on December 31 dedicate their time to cleaning. It's a folk tradition—a day for chores. Everything needs to be cleaned out, beddings changed, dust wiped away, and washed clothes put away. These tasks are not to be postponed to the next year.

In the past, women called sweepers used to help with these chores. They would whitewash the stoves and ensure that the fire burned well in the following year. Hence, this day was also known as Grandmother's Day.

Before New Year's, Czechs reconcile with those they've quarreled with and try to settle debts. On December 31, it's important to be kind and in good spirits.

If guests are invited for the festive dinner, it's believed that the first person to enter the house should be young and healthy. According to tradition, youth brings luck, while older individuals may bring conflicts.

Before going to bed on New Year's Eve, it's customary to think of pleasant things. Czechs believe that wishes made in this manner will come true.

On January 1, it's strictly forbidden to do any cleaning except for clearing the plates from the table. Sweeping and taking out trash are seen as sweeping away luck. Hanging up washed laundry from the previous year might bring misfortune to oneself and their loved ones.

On New Year's Eve, many Czechs take to the streets, set off fireworks, dance, have fun, and make wishes as the new year begins.

New Year in Czechia: Intriguing customs and traditional dishesPhoto: New Year's atmosphere in Prague (

On the first day of the year, Czechs dress in new and festive attire and go for a stroll—either to the city or the woods. On this day, they don't spend large sums of money; the wallet should retain a considerable amount. It's believed to set the tone for the entire year.

On January 1, Czechs neither lend money to anyone nor take anything out of their homes. Doing so might imply shortages throughout the year.

What dishes can be seen on the New Year's table in Czechia

Czech New Year traditions share similarities with Ukrainian customs—feasting, champagne, and a Christmas tree. However, the traditional dishes differ.

For instance, salads like Olivier or Herring under a fur coat, commonly prepared in Ukraine for decades, won't be found on Czech tables. Instead, Czechs make various open-faced sandwiches called chlebíčky.

As for beverages on the Czech New Year's table, you might see dry sparkling wine and sweet egg liqueur. The original egg liqueur has been produced by the Dutch company Verpoorten since 1876. However, it's so popular in Czechia that local companies and even farmers produce it.

One of the national Czech dishes is a lentil soup called čočková polévka. The lentils' shape resembles coins, symbolizing prosperity in the new year. Additionally, Czechs consume pork dishes because a pig brings good luck. Hence, the table might feature sausages, smoked meats, and other pork products.

New Year in Czechia: Intriguing customs and traditional dishes

Photo: New Year's feast (

Traditionally, Czech households put braised cabbage with caraway and apples on the New Year's table. Some might bake a pie with peas—those who find a pea inside will have good luck.

Some Czechs believe it's not advisable to eat poultry on New Year's—chicken or duck—because they supposedly symbolize bad luck. Luck swims away from fish dishes, and escapes from rabbit meat. However, in many homes, you might still find carp or chicken cutlets on the table.

We've previously discussed how New Year's is celebrated in Poland, where 12 dishes are placed on the table in Polish homes.

We've also detailed the celebrations Germans organize for New Year's, what they prepare for the festive table, and the gifts they exchange. Celebrating with noise and merriment is a tradition tied to medieval beliefs about warding off evil spirits.