Holidays in the Czech Republic
|Date||English name||Czech name||Comments|
|1 January||Day of the Restoration of the Independent Czech State; New Year’s Day||Den obnovy samostatného českého státu; Nový rok||Czechoslovakia divided into the Czech Republic and Slovakia.|
|March, April||Good Friday||The countries||Good Friday has been a public holiday since 2016.|
|March, April||Easter Monday||Velikonoční pondělí|
|1 May||Labour Day||Svátek práce|
|8 May||Liberation Day||Den vítězství or Den osvobození||1945, the end of the European part of the Second World War|
|5 July||Feast of Saints Cyril and Methodius||Den slovanských věrozvěstů Cyrila has Metoděje||In 863, the church teachers St. Cyril (Constantine) and Metoděj (Methodius) came to Great Moravia from the Balkans to spread the Christian faith and literacy.|
|6 July||Jan Hus Day||The mist of upálení Jana Husa||The religious reformer Jan Hus was burned at the stake in 1415.|
|28 September||St. Wenceslas Day (Czech State Day)||The page české||In 935, St. Wenceslas, Duke of Bohemia, today the patron saint of the Bohemian state, was murdered by his brother.|
|28 October||Day of the Independent Czechoslovak State||Den vzniku samostatného československého státu||Independence Day and the founding of Czechoslovakia in 1918.|
|17 November||Day of the Struggle for Freedom and Democracy||The Democracy Toolkit||Commemoration of the student demonstration against the Nazi occupation in 1939 and the demonstration in 1989 that launched the Velvet Revolution.|
|24 December||Christmas Eve||Štědrý den||Christmas is celebrated on the evening of the 24th.|
|25 December||Christmas Day||svátek vánoční|
|Boxing Day||St. Stephen’s Day (Czech: “The Second Day of Christmas”)||svátek vánoční|
Habits and customs
- Easter (Velikonoce): On Easter Monday it is customary for men to (lightly) spank girls and women with a willow stick with coloured ribbons on the end (pomlázka) in the hope that the girls and women will give them coloured eggs, sweets or drinks in return. Obvious tourists are often (but not always) exempt from this.
- The burning of witches (Pálení čarodějnic) or the Night of the Witches (Čarodějnice): On the last evening in April, bonfires are lit all over the country. Figures of “witches”, symbol of evil, are made and burned in the fire. This is a reinterpretation of the old pagan festival (Beltane), influenced by the Christian Inquisition. Since most Czechs probably prefer witches to inquisitors, many fires do not burn the witches and the festival is celebrated in a more original pagan way – witches are the ones who should be celebrating the night, not being burned. This does not prevent jokes like “Honey, hide or you will be burned tonight!
- The last bell (Poslední zvonění) is a traditional celebration of the end of the last school year in a secondary school. It is usually celebrated in late April or early May, a week or more before the final exams (maturita in Czech) (the timing may vary from school to school). The students have a day off and usually do silly things in ridiculous costumes. They go out on the street and collect money from passers-by, sometimes threatening them with water, writing on their faces with lipstick or spraying them with perfume. The money collected is used at a party after the exams or at a Matura ball.
- Feast of St. Mikuláš (St. Nicholas, Father Christmas), 5 December: On this day St. Mikuláš walks with his companions, an angel and a devil. He gives the children small gifts and sweets as a reward for their good behaviour during the year, while the devil punishes the children for their misdeeds during the year, giving them potatoes, coal (or sometimes a beating) as punishment. Prague’s Old Town Square is an ideal place to take part in the festivities.
- Christmas (Vánoce): Czechs start this holiday on Christmas Eve and celebrate it until 26 December (St Stephen’s Day). The presents are placed under the Christmas tree (by Ježíšek (the baby Jesus), as little children believe) and collected after dinner on Christmas Eve. Potato salad and carp are a traditional Christmas meal. That’s why you see live carp sold in huge tanks in the streets of Czech towns and villages just before Christmas.