Well, it is obvious by now that I am not a big fan of Christmas markets in Prague. I go nowhere near them because I prefer to avoid crowds. Being brought up an atheist (as the majority of my Czech counterparts), I might not fully get the Christian symbolism of Christmas. But as I understand it, before Christianity this was the time of year when people allowed themselves a bit of festivities during the shortest days of the year. Something to get them over winter, when nature is asleep and food sources are scarce. And I cannot imagine their spiritual understanding of this season, when years were not counted, but every year started as a new cycle of life. As nature does. There must have been hope for a good new year. And this is the meaning of Christmas for me: hope. Not in the sense that things will have happy endings. Hope in the sense that whatever we are doing with our lives has meaning.
For me, Christmas could be an amazing opportunity to slow down (as nature does these days), escape our busy daily lives to ponder what is meaningful to us, to be with ourselves, and our closest ones. That would be the message Christmas should bring to me. The rush for Christmas shopping, the need to avoid crowds and not seeing people and to do everything just right to stand up to good Christian Christmas traditions just make this time of year busier and take from the true meaning of Christmas.
If you happen to be in Prague, and the beauty of Christmas markets does not fill your spiritual needs, no worries, you are not the only one. Fortunately for me, and visitors to the Czech capital, there are plenty of opportunities to escape the city, crowds, shopping and overstuffed bellies. Come for a hike, if with me, even better. And no matter what way you enjoy Christmas, enjoy it. Happy Christmas!