Christmas baking? A family ritual with sweet results

Vánoční pečení

There is no strict date for this family ritual but most of housewives start to think about it in November. Some housewives like to think about their homes being scented with lovely aromas and they also like to taste warm pastry. On the other hand, many housewives know how exhausting are these long nights spend in the kitchen and monotonous mixing of sweet creams. This is what Christmas baking is really about. Although buying Christmas sweets in professional bakeries is more common these days, many families bake their own traditional Christmas sweets. Where is this Christmas custom from?

Christmas sweets and a Christmas tree became attributes of Christmas in the 19th century but Christmas baking is much older.

Christmas sweets are associated with pagan ceremonies linked to winter solstice celebrations. This December night was considered to be the most powerful in a year. It was said that during the solstice it was necessary to protect a house and family from the dark forces.
That’s why protective food and ceremonial bread were prepared. Usually, it had a shape of an animal which was hung on fruit trees, above the front door, to the stables, and to the chambers to chase away evil spirits. The magical power of Christmas pastry is still here but it doesn’t eliminate dark forces, instead, it attracts sweet tooth.
The old types of sweets probably wouldn’t be popular nowadays but they would be favoured by nutrition specialists. The sweets contained neither flour nor sugar! Housewives used only fruits, honey, and nuts.

The first Christmas pastry was plaited bread called vánočka which origin dates back to the 16th century. It was the first pastry not made of honey. Vánočka evolved from white ceremonial bread and it symbolized a child wrapped in a cloth. People started baking it themselves at home during the 18th century. Vánočka was very soft and feathery, and it was called many names such as štědrovka, pleténka, žemle, štrucka nebo stricka. To this day, the lovely pastry still belongs to Christmas menu.
Baking Christmas sweets wasn’t so widespread in the past centuries. Its financial demand was high and only wealthy families could afford to bake such pastry. The number of types of pastry as we can see nowadays is associated with the last century. People used to bake about 7 or 12 types of Christmas sweets. But we definitely shouldn’t be limited by a number of these sweets. It’s important to gather as a family during the preparations and to chat about how Christmas used to be in the past without all the rush.

Healthy eating is a trend in many gastronomic spheres as well as in pastry-making. Christmas sweets haven’t been omitted too. The biggest effort is in substituting basic ingredients, for example, instead of plain white flour it’s used spelt, whole grain, or buckwheat flour. White sugar is replaced with cane sugar, stevia, or sometimes with honey, dates, figs, or agave syrup.
Another level of healthy sweets is raw versions made of dates and other dried fruits mixed with cocoa, coconut, and nuts. In addition to good nutritional values, the biggest advantage is the fact that housewives don’t need to stress about its preparation in advance in November.


Pastry should only be made of your own flour to ensure a rich year. Pour water out of dough and add it to cows’ fodder to milk more next year. A housewife has to wipe her hands covered with dough all over the trees to ensure more fruits. Burned or cracked pastries symbolize misfortune and death in a family. A coin baked inside vánočka and whoever finds the coin their wealth and health is guaranteed. Bake a green pea inside vánočka and the one who finds it should be lucky all year.

When do you start to prepare Christmas sweets? What types are essential to your Christmas menu? Do you add any alcohol to the recipe? Let us know on our Facebook page or Instagram. We’d love to see your photos and recipes.