Almost every Czech Christmas tree is decorated with edibles, that is probably not so uncommon but have you heard of vánoční kolekce? It’s something you won’t find outside of the Czech Republic or Slovakia.
Vánoční kolekce or simply kolekce is assortment of chocolate pralines that you attach to a wire hook and hand on the Christmas tree. There are many types – hollow figurines or cones, pralines filled with liquid fondants (often in form of a fish), marzipan or coconut, packed in colorful aluminum paper or tin foil. And there are also arabesky – jelly rings dipped in chocolate. By the way, if you want to know about the Czech tradition of tree decoration, read about the History and Present of Christmas Tree in Czech Republic.
Origins of vánoční kolekce
The first assortments come from the 1880s, the first ones weren’t chocolate pralines but rather jelly and other. In 1896 František Maršner and his wife Albína founded the first Czech sweets factory in Královské Vinohrady (Továrna na orientálské cukrovinky F. Maršner – Factory of Oriental sweets F. Maršner) and started making chocolate and in 1897 also chocolate pralines. The new fashion of decorating Christmas trees with chocolate spread fast all around Czechoslovakia. The brand Orion (1914) started a whole new era in high-quality chocolate figurines manufacturing. In fact, Orion, which had originally a different name, took over the concept of the business of Albína Maršnerová.
The Orion brand is under the Swiss brand Nestle since 1992.
Vánoční kolekce as well as arabesky are still hugely popular despite their decline in taste due to the replacement of milk by vegetable oils and other substitutes of traditional ingredients. Many Czechs have fond memories of the time when they were little and invented new ways of “stealing” the sweets from the tree without their parents noticing. You will hear stories of children getting up at night and mastering the art of taking the chocolate out of the tin foil in a way that the foil preserved its form and no one could notice the praline was no longer in it.
Browse the Christmas category to learn more about Czech Christmas traditions.