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This is the 15th year Christmas markets have been held in various places across Prague. The historic Prague backdrop gives them the air of a true Bohemian tradition, the smell of Christmas goodies fills the winter air with sugar and fish odors, hot wine or grog lighten up the human spirit for further endurance of Christmas spirituality and the desire to buy traditional Czech Christmas decoration leaves your wallet empty. I certainly do not want to spoil the expectations and joys of traveling to Christmas markets in Prague (please, tell me your secret of how to enjoy them, I might be just jealous). But if you happen to come to the conclusion that enough is simply enough, I sympathize with you.

The christmass market is still closed, which means no crowds yet.

The best christmass market is the closed one – no crowds!

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.

Landscape in Cesky Kras nature reserve

Alternative to christmass markets – go for a hike!

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!