Monday, May 17, 2021

Festivals & Holidays in Czech Republic

EuropeCzech RepublicFestivals & Holidays in Czech Republic

Holidays in the Czech Republic

DateEnglish nameCzech nameComments
1 JanuaryDay of the Restoration of the Independent Czech State; New Year’s DayDen obnovy samostatného českého státu; Nový rokCzechoslovakia divided into the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
March, AprilGood FridayThe countriesGood Friday has been a public holiday since 2016.
March, AprilEaster MondayVelikonoční pondělí
1 MayLabour DaySvátek práce
8 MayLiberation DayDen vítězství or Den osvobození1945, the end of the European part of the Second World War
5 JulyFeast of Saints Cyril and MethodiusDen slovanských věrozvěstů Cyrila has MetodějeIn 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 JulyJan Hus DayThe mist of upálení Jana HusaThe religious reformer Jan Hus was burned at the stake in 1415.
28 SeptemberSt. Wenceslas Day (Czech State Day)The page českéIn 935, St. Wenceslas, Duke of Bohemia, today the patron saint of the Bohemian state, was murdered by his brother.
28 OctoberDay of the Independent Czechoslovak StateDen vzniku samostatného československého státuIndependence Day and the founding of Czechoslovakia in 1918.
17 NovemberDay of the Struggle for Freedom and DemocracyThe Democracy ToolkitCommemoration of the student demonstration against the Nazi occupation in 1939 and the demonstration in 1989 that launched the Velvet Revolution.
24 DecemberChristmas EveŠtědrý denChristmas is celebrated on the evening of the 24th.
25 DecemberChristmas Daysvátek vánoční
Boxing DaySt. 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.
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