Each country has its own holidays, celebrations and cultural traditions. The Czech Republic is no different and while they follow some commonly celebrated holidays (like Christmas and Easter) they also have their very own.
Let’s discover them together!
February 2: Hromnice
Hromnice is related to Czech folklore. This festivity falls on the same day as the US Groundhog day tradition and it stems from the same Celtic custom: according to tradition, how long winter will be is determined by the weather on that day.
If the day is clear and sunny, it is said that winter will last 6 more weeks. If not, spring instead should be close.
The name of this holiday comes from the name given to the candles that would be lit on the night of February 2nd in case of a storm (storm = “Hrom” in Czech).
While a festivity, Hromnice is not a bank holiday so on this day you can expect all establishments to operate normally.
April 30: The Burning of the Witches (Pálení čarodějnic)
A centuries-old tradition, the Burning of Witches takes place on the evening of April 30th. This tradition is said to celebrate the end of winter and the beginning of spring.
The date is not chosen randomly: according to folklore, April 30th was the day in which evil forces would be at their peak after festering for the entirety of winter. People believed that witches would gather together to enchant cattle and damage the soil on this night, so they would prepare bonfires to protect them against this threat. They would also burn an effigy to warn these evil forces away.
Today, this celebration is a big festivity, with multiple events organized around the country often accompanied by food, beer and music.
May 1: The Day of Love (Svátek zamilovaných)
On May 1st, Czech people celebrate the day of love: on this day, couples all around the country share a kiss under cherry blossoms. There is also a saying that girls who will not be kissed on this day under the cherry blossoms will dry out.
The festivity comes from the romantic poem written by Czech poet Karel Hynek Mácha entitled “May” which is set on May 1st. Because of this, on the day, many couples also visit the statue of Mácha in Petrin Park to lay flowers.
July 5: Saints Cyril and Methodius Day (Den slovanských věrozvěstů Cyrila a Metoděje)
Cyril and Methodius were two Greek-Byzantine brothers who left a deep impression on the Czech land. In 863 they brought Christianity to the country and also the liturgical Slavonic language and Glagolitic alphabet (which then went on to become the Cyrillic Alphabet), helping with the spread of the old Slavonic language in Great Moravia.
The historical significance of their work is admired and respected to this day.
July 6: Jan Hus Commemoration (Den upálení mistra Jana Husa)
Jan Hus was a priest who started a reform movement against the corruption of the Catholic church. His sermons were conducted in Czech, to be understood by commoners, in Prague’s Bethlehem Chapel. As his ideology was not liked by the Church, he was burned at the stake in 1415. His death sparked a rebellion in Bohemia which became known as the Hussite wars.
Today, Czech Republic remembers Jan Hus via the main statue in the Old Town Square and commemorates his martyrdom every year on July 6th.
September 28: Czech Statehood Day (Den české státnosti)
Czech Statehood Day has been celebrated since the year 2000. The choice of this day, however, was not casual.
On September 28th, 935 A.D. Czech Prince Wenceslav of the Přemyslid dynasty was murdered in a plot orchestrated by his brother Boleslav, in a bid for power. Later on, his remains were brought to Prague where Boleslav himself insisted on Wensceslav’s canonization as a saint.
This started the cult of St. Wenceslas, who is now one of the most celebrated Czech saints as a patron saint, martyr and key figure in the emancipation of the Czech State.
October 28: Independence Day (Den vzniku samostatného československého státu)
Czechoslovak independence was declared on October 28th, 1918 starting an important historical chapter for two nations that until then had been under the Austro-Hungarian empire for half a century.
November 17: Freedom and Democracy Day (Den boje za svobodu a demokracii)
The origins of this holiday are on November 17, 1939. On this day, Nazi forces stormed Czech Universities following organized demonstrations due to the killings of student Jan Opletal and worker Václav Sedláček. On this occasion, nine Czech students and professors were executed while 1,200 were sent to concentration camps.
The event is now remembered with a National Holiday on November 17, which also became known as International Students’ Day.
The day is also a reminder of the brutal police intervention against student demonstrations in Prague on November 17th, 1989, during the 50th anniversary of the events of 1939.
This sparked a series of demonstrations against the communist party, which led to the rebirth of Czechoslovakia as a democratic country. These events are now known as the Velvet Revolution.