22. 12. 2014

Czech Christmas Carp: Fun and Cruel Tradition

Eating carp on Christmas Eve for dinner with potato salad is one of the most important Czech Christmas traditions. But where do all those thousands of carps come from every year and what is their story?

A few days before Christmas hundreds of small stands appear in the streets and squares of every Czech city. On almost every corner you can see couple of men by the tub full of water and carps. These carps are specially raised in ponds for this occasion and you can't find them like this at any other time of the year.

They use fishing nets to pick the carp you like and to pull it out of the tub. The water is very cold and there are many carps in one tank.

You can get a small or a big one, with scales or without... Once you find the carp you like they pull it out of the tub. That might actually be a struggle because the carps don't want to leave the water tank of course. 

Notice that even though it's already freezing outside and the water is really cold the men do not wear any gloves so they can handle the carps better. But their hands must be freezing. 

And here goes the carp you are taking home to your family. The tradition is to take the fish home alive. But a lot of people ask to have their fish killed and prepared for cooking right away. 

Sellers are very helpful and ready to kill and clean your carp. But if you let them do it you are missing all the fun because normally you take the carp home to your own bathtub where it can swim for a day or two before Christmas Eve comes. Of course, you can't use the bathtub for those days when the carp swims in it, which might be a problem. But how many times a year do you have live animal swimming in your bathroom? :)

The downside of this tradition is that eventually you need to kill it by yourself.

Some people decide to save the carp and on Christmas Eve they put it back to the water so it survives the Christmas. But most people end up eating it anyway ... because it is delicious. :) Just be careful not to choke on its bones because it is a major cause of holiday hospitalizations.

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