Traditional Czech Christmas meals and cookies

*Collector Note: The Czech Republic, previously known as Czechoslovakia, which was a part of the Kingdom of Bohemia before that, was primarily a Catholic nation, and as of such the majority population would not eat meat on Fridays in keeping with their religious beliefs.

Informant: “Around Christmas time, people in the Czech Republic had a couple of special meals that they would prepare. One that I can think of were dumplings with different fruits inside of them that were usually served on meatless Fridays for supper. These dumplings were a big thing in Central European culture. They were normally served with cottage cheese and melted butter. They were sweet, but they were often served as main dishes like crepes. My grandmother made them a lot, and they were typically easy to make. They were just made out of Flour, water, and fruit. Otherwise, around Christmas, Czech people were big on fancy cookies and deserts. My grandmother and aunt used to make a couple dozen kinds of cookies for Christmas. One of the main ones were Kolacky, which were round pastries made with cream cheese, butter, flour, and fruit fillings like prunes or apricot. Sometimes we would make them with poppyseed. Other cookies we made were Angel Wings, which were sort of a combination of more traditional Czech cookies and other [Central European] culture. Vanilla or Walnut crescents were a big special one. We would make gingerbread cookies like gingersnaps. There was one type of Christmas Bread called Vanocka, which was a sweet bread formed like a big braid, which would have dried fruit, raisins, and orange slices inside of it. They usually had almonds in it as well. Czechs were always really great bakers”

The informant is a 77 year old retired anthropologist living in Portland Oregon. Her grandparents immigrated to the United States from the Kingdom of Bohemia (in the modern day Czech Republic) in the 1890’s to escape the economic turmoil within the country in that time period. She was born and grew up in Chicago, Illinois, and studied anthropology at Stanford University, during which time she became interested in learning more about the traditions of her heritage. She has on several occasions traveled to the Czech republic to visit relatives there.

Collector Analysis: This is a pretty straightforward interpretation of a widely spread tradition of making special foods and desserts for the Christmas Season. As an interesting side note, one of the conditions that the informant had for sharing this story was that the collector could not post the actual recipes for any of the cookies beyond simply a list of the general ingredients, as the recipes are apparently a family secret. All of the cookies sampled by the collector were, in the collector’s opinion, delicious.

Kolachy, a traditional Czech Christmas cookie

Kolachy, a traditional Czech Christmas cookie