Czech Christmas, Part III: The carp must die

What do Czechs eat for Christmas? Typically, I don’t like when people ask me this question because the answer, “carp,” is followed with a reaction of pure disgust.

If just eating carp sounds disgusting to you, I can´t wait to hear what you´ll say about the rest of the tradition. (And I can’t wait to hear the reactions, particularly after my Santa post.)

As Neil likes to remember from his time living in Prague, about a week before Christmas, fish vendors start appearing on street corners. They bring tubs or barrels full of water and packed with carp.

It is freezing cold, so the vendors usually drink heavily while selling the fish. By the evening, these guys can be quite entertaining.

People come to these vendors, usually with kids, so they can pick and buy their own carp. Then they either kill and gut it (in front of the kids, which some people criticize) or they take it home alive. They fill a bathtub full of water and leave the carp there so the kids bond with it. They usually name the thing, of course, which makes it all the more fun when it comes to time for Daddy to kill Carl the Carp.

Mom then fries him up and serves him with potato salad. This used to be very common, and I still remember the times when we couldn’t bathe for a day or two because Carl the Carp had a monopoly on the tub. After the fall of communism, animal advocacy groups started a campaign calling the entire tradition inhumane. More and more often, people will just eat a schnitzel with potato salad to avoid a moral dilemma. They don´t actually have to kill a pig, which is much more morally acceptable. As anywhere else, the wealthier people become, the more they like to remove themselves from the whole “killing the animal before you eat it” part. It is a little hypocritical, but that´s the way it goes.