By Sara Shaughnessy, Hamilton College
It’s November 28, which means two days until the 1st of December, the start of Advent, or the beginning of the holiday season. I have to admit, for some reason I did not have high expectations for festive decorations in Prague or the Czechs’ overall opinion of the holiday season, considering they are not the friendliest people in general (at least compared to the Americans I am used to being around during the holidays at home) and therefore I did not expect to see much Christmas cheer from them. But it is not even December yet, and so far they have proved my initial thoughts wrong.
I am sitting in Starbucks right now, and granted Starbucks is an American café, but to my left I glance at a Christmas tree decorated in ornaments and strung with white ribbon and bells. I will admit that I am a frequent customer at Starbucks in Prague despite the fact that maybe I should be branching out and immersing myself in the Czech café experience, (just can’t stray from Starbucks) and I have heard holiday music pumping through the speakers for weeks during my daily wait in line for my grande Christmas blend. At the Marks and Spencer around the corner (another chain and British store, but nonetheless a store in Prague) one can find any Christmas decoration for the home or any gift ranging from milk chocolate Advent Calendars to slippers patterned with Santa hats. Even my gym, World Class Fitness Center, has managed to pull out a few strands of garland and drape them around the banisters leading to the front desk.
But moving onto the more authentic Prague Christmas decorations I have sited so far, I have high hopes for the tree being strung with plentiful white lights in Old Towne right now. The overbearing evergreen, comparable but not quite as large as the typical New York City Christmas tree I am used to seeing every year, stands tall in front of the Cathedral in Old Towne for every tourist to gaze at as they meander through the square. By December 5th, the square normally filled with small bands or the guy who blows the bubble that little kids love to chase will be strung with small stands that make up the biggest Christmas market in Prague. I know not to expect a Christmas Market like the one I saw in Vienna last weekend, but judging by the Christmas decorations that Prague has come up with so far this season, I can imagine that I will enjoy the market of Old Towne almost as much.
Again, it’s only November 28, so I have to wait a little longer until we really enter the holiday season to speculate on whether the Czechs live up to the American standards of celebrating the Christmas season. But so far I am impressed, and I will keep going back to Starbucks so long as they serve me coffee in the festive red cups decorated with snowflakes. And judging by the Bakeshop’s performance during Halloween and Thanksgiving (ghost-shaped cupcake toppings and a full Thanksgiving menu), one could guess I will spend a decent amount of time there as well, enjoying the Christmas decorations during my last few weeks in Prague.