Santa can’t have all the traveling fun during the holiday season. And part of the joy of traveling to the European Christmas Markets is learning about unique traditions along the way.

Jolly Old Mikulás

In particular, the different twists on Santa Claus. In the Czech Republic, St. Nick takes the vastly different form of Mikulás… although they’re more like brothers instead of the same person. Forget the North Pole, the famous red velvet coat, white cuffs and black gloves. Forget the magical, world-flying sleigh, and yes – forget Rudolph and even Mrs. Claus. Mikulás is single, prefers the white robes of a bishop and is lowered down to Earth from his home in the heavens via a basket and golden rope. Instead of nine reindeer and a stowaway elf every now and again, Santa’s traveling partners are always his two assistants: an angel and devil, known as Krampus. Good children are represented by the angel. Bad children get a friendly scare – and perhaps some onions, raw potatoes and/or coal -- from Krampus. And a few weeks before Christmas Eve, on the eve of December 5th aka the Eve of St. Mikulás, the trio walk around the town handing gifts to children. But unlike the more mysterious St. Nick, students dress up as the yuletide trio and walk around the Old Square in Prague – so sightings are quite common.

A few weeks later, on December 24th, it’s not Santa Claus or Mikulás -- but rather Baby Jesus or Jezisek -- who leaves gifts under the tree. No North Pole for Baby Jesus either – he’s said to live high in the mountains, in the town of Boží Dar where a post office accepts and stamps letters to him.

The Christmas Markets of Prague

In various forms, these time-honored traditions are also well-known in Hungary, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia and Poland. And naturally, they are celebrated with delicious regional foods and artisanal crafts throughout Prague’s boisterous Christmas Markets. The two largest markets are held at the Old Town Square and the Wenceslas Square, centrally located in the heart of the city and only about a five minute walk from each other. Gifts of traditional Czech cookies, Christmas potpourri, honeyed gingerbread, braided pastries are all easy to find, along with wooden toys, crafts, clothing and candles depicting Prague folklore and holiday traditions. An animal stable and large Bethlehem nativity scene can also be enjoyed at the Old Town Square market.

Czech Holiday Delights

And what would a Prague Christmas be without carp? Yes, the fish. While Americans enjoy dining on turkey, carp is central to a traditional Czech holiday dinner. Typically brought in live from street sellers in the days leading up to Christmas, the carp is then breaded and fried and served along with a smorgasboard of fish soup, potato salad and apple strudel. Look for some of these at the market.

Close to the markets, you might also be able to take in a classical concert at one of Prague’s ancient churches or music halls for a magical, authentic experience. Now that’s a gift Santa would be sure to appreciate!

As they say the more is merrier, discover even more whimsical holiday traditions with our Christmas Markets river cruises.

Why Reserve Our Optional Land Packages in Prague

Add bonus time in Prague to your Christmas Markets on the Danube and Iconic Christmas Markets river cruises on the Danube! Make the most of your international airfare and indulge your wanderlust by exploring this breathtaking city. Whether you’re interested in the cultural and holiday traditions of the Czech Republic, are a history enthusiast or simply wish to extend your journey, this 3-night land package, which includes a Czech beer tasting, is sure to inspire you.

What’s Included in Your Optional Land Package

  • 3 nights hotel in Prague at the Old Town Hilton (or similar)
  • Visits to Christmas Markets and a city tour
  • Daily breakfast at the hotel
  • Convenient transfers between your hotel and ship
  • Guided tours
  • The services of one of our wonderful Cruise Managers – unique in the industry

Contact your preferred travel advisor to extend your Christmas Markets on the Danube and Iconic Christmas Markets journeys into Prague today!

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