Czech Christmas Carp

One of my very favorite things about living in Prague at this time of year was the carp.

Carp, you see, is the traditional Christmas meal in the Czech Republic. I myself prefer turkey, but I simply love the way the Czechs go about their traditional meal.

About a week or so before Christmas, vendors appear on street corners throughout Prague with little plastic kiddie pools. Each is full of water and brimming with live carp swimming about in agitated little circles. Snow is usually on the ground at this time, lending a rather surreal element to the pools of fish and the fish mongers all bundled up to keep warm.

Czechs usually do one of two things. They either pay to have the fish mongers kill and gut the fish on site, or they bring home a live one so that it will be as fresh as possible for Christmas. According to friends of mine, families sometimes fill the bathtub with water and keep the fish alive until it is time to cook him. This means fresh fish, but not-so-fresh family members who can’t really bath during this time. I’ve also heard stories of wine being poured into the tub to marinate the fish while still alive.

I feel silly writing about this since we have a Czech staff writing living in Prague right now. So, I would like to defer to Iva for her insights on this tradition and to see if I have all my facts right. More importantly, Iva, can you provide us with a little photo essay of the fish mongers doing their thing? I guess I have a little bit of carp nostalgia right now…