Christmas is a wonderful time we spend with our family and closest ones. To hunters, it also often gives a chance to share their passion for nature with their loved ones. To find out more about Christmas hunting traditions, we turned to two European hunters. Agnieszka Walczak from Poland told us about her family rituals, while Martin Brožek, a Czech hunter, told us about the traditions of his country.
Agnieszka: In Poland, it is a tradition for hunting clubs to organize a Christmas Eve driven hunt before Christmas. Some hunting clubs meet for hunting on Christmas Eve morning, others organize hunts a few days earlier. We usually meet with friends from my hunting club on the weekend before Christmas. Before the hunt, there is a mass, we share wafers and make wishes. Then there is a hunt, and after it, we sit down together for a Christmas Eve meal, talk, and have a nice time.
Martin: Czech hunting traditions are deeply intertwined with winter holidays. The hunting season, particularly for red deer, begins in September, marking the start of many winter activities. Around the festive period, especially during St. Hubert’s Day, hunters gather for special prayers and ceremonies. This reflects the deep connection between hunting, Christianity, and cultural practices in the Czech Republic. It’s less about hunting for sport and more about honoring traditions and respecting wildlife. At the beginning of December, you can find many occasions with hunting horn music – we merge the tradition of Christmas music and hunting signals.
Martin: In many Czech households, game meat is a prized addition to the Christmas feast. Dishes made from deer, wild boar, or pheasant are common. These meals are often prepared using traditional recipes, sometimes roasted or stewed with rich, hearty sauces and served with dumplings, red cabbage, or other typical Czech side dishes. The preparation of game meat is seen as a way to celebrate the bounty of nature and the skill of the hunter. However, the most common thing you’ll find on the Christmas table is a fish, specifically a carp. You can, of course, fish it yourself if you have the proper tools, skills, and permission. However, the majority of people buy carp on the streets just before Christmas and prepare it by deep frying or baking it for the celebration dinner.
Agnieszka: Similarly, we don’t eat meat on Christmas Eve, but on the first and second Christmas Day, game is on my Christmas table. I always prepare pheasant broth. Both the children and the rest of the family love it. I also like to make wild boar stew. Delicious and aromatic, with carrots, plums, and cranberries, it’s perfect for Christmas dinner. Smoked hams and sausages must also be present on the Christmas table. Venison is the healthiest meat, and it cannot be missing on hunters’ tables.
Agnieszka: Sitting at the Christmas table all day can be tiring, so I always go for a walk with my family. If it snows, we usually go to the forest, take a sled, and burn Christmas calories. We build snowmen and throw snowballs at each other. Children love spending time actively in nature. On Christmas Eve, we also go to the forest and leave a wafer for the animals in the pasture.
Martin: Czech traditions, too, often involve families going out together into nature. This could include visiting forest feeding stations, especially around Christmas, to provide food for wild animals. It’s a way of giving back to nature and enjoying the tranquility of the winter landscape. Observing animals and appreciating the beauty of the wilderness are cherished activities.
Martin: Many Czech hunting traditions have their roots in ancient practices and beliefs, often intertwined with Christian customs. The reverence for St. Hubert, the patron saint of hunters, plays a significant role in these traditions. Over the centuries, these practices have evolved but always maintained a focus on respect for nature and the ethical pursuit of hunting. Czech hunting traditions began in the 17th century and are enlisted in the UNESCO cultural heritage.
Agnieszka: Contact with nature has always been something natural in my family. The beautiful aura and surrounding nature calm us down, put us in a good mood, and make Christmas even more family-friendly and magical.
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