There are 12 officially recognized holidays in the Czech Republic:
- New Year (1.1.)
- Good Friday
- Easter Monday
- Labor Day (1.5.)
- Victory Day (8.5.)
- The Day of Slavic Intelligence Cyril and Methodius (5.7.)
- Day of burning of master Jan Hus (6.7.)
- Czech Statehood Day (28.9.)
- Independent Czechoslovak State Day (28.10.)
- Day of Fight for Freedom and Democracy (17.11.)
- Christmas Eve (24.12.)
- First Christmas Day (25.12.)
These days there is a working day off, pupils and school students are out of work, and the sales hours of large stores is reduced, or some are closed. Most of the inhabitants of the Czech Republic celebrate these holidays either as a tradition (Christmas, Easter, see the following chapters) or perceive them as a day off. They mostly spend time with families and friends. During public holidays various concerts and special exhibitions are organized on a theme day. A number of cultural and historical monuments have modified opening hours during these days. The public television channel broadcasts films and documents that illustrate and explain the significance and, above all, the history connected with the holiday. On the occasion of certain holidays, state honors are awarded to persons who represent the Czech Republic – people from all spheres of life, ie scientists, athletes, artists and others.
Some Christian holidays are celebrated by most of the population of the Czech Republic, regardless of their religion. The first big holiday is Christmas and the second most important holiday is Easter, but for Christians, Easter is the most important holiday of the year.
In the period of Advent, a number of traditions are respected. In most households, several types of Christmas cookies are baked. Houses are also decorated with advent wreaths. Christmas decoration is also on houses and squares. In many cities there are Christmas markets, concerts, Christmas trees are lit up. Classic Czech carols, as well as Christmas songs of popular Czech and foreign music are sung. In the pre-Christmas period and then during Christmas people send cards or, nowadays, they send wishes through mobiles or social networks.
Clasic Czech Carols:
„ Vánoce, Vánoce přicházejí“ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Upx_hdmtkA
„ Půjdem spolu do Betléma“ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=moFy1FvYHf4
„ Veselé vánoční hody“ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQS9fXIqEB4&list=PLsn74HU4tcpmTR88MrEKAR4-NEvRvBDLJ
„ Narodil se Kristus Pán“ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGQR2VRvW_8&list=PLsn74HU4tcpmTR88MrEKAR4-NEvRvBDLJ&index=10
Still unforgettable tradition is December 4, on St. Barbora, a twig of cherry is placed in the water. The twig has to serve both for decoration, but it is also believed to have magic powers. If it is blooming on Christmas Eve, it means early marriages.
A specific tradition for the Czech Republic is December 5 – the so-called Mikuláš, when children are visited by Nicholas, the devil and the angel. Children are afraid, but at the same time they expect a lot of sweets, fruits and small toys. Nicholas asks children whether they have behaved well during the year. If so, the children will receive the expected presents. If not, they are protected by Nicholas with the angel before the devil and his hell. Of these three characters is the most typical and most popular Nicholas, who wears the typical clothes: the episcopal gown – a long white gown, a red gold coat, a bishop’s pointed hat (mitra), and a long crutch.
Christmas holidays are perceived as the most important Christian, but also a civic feast associated with the end of the year. These days are the official national holiday in the Czech Republic. Most people at this time adhere to traditional Christmas customs. Many traditions are of a Christian character, but some come from pre-Christian times and are related to the celebration of the Solstice. At present, Christmas original religious significance diminishes. In the Czech Republic, the peak of the Christmas holidays is December 24 – Christmas Eve. On this day most people decorate the Christmas tree and arrange nativity scenes. People give and receive presents that are placed under the tree. Children believe that gifts are brought by Baby Jesus.
People have Christmas Eve dinner, which consists of fish soup, potato salad and fish. Most often it is fried carp. Since Christmas Eve is a holiday designed mostly for children, in most households it is associated with watching fairy tales on TV. Czechs prefer classical Czech fairy tales. There are many traditional customs, for example, the habit of putting a fish scale or coin under a plate during a Christmas dinner, because it can bring in or keep money in the home. Children put their candles on walnut shells, throw a shoe after dinner, while the tip of the shoe shows the direction of the person next year. An apple is cut and a star is searched, whose findings predict good health in the following year. Many families also go to nearby churches at the Midnight Mass. Modern customs include strolling before dinner, visiting relatives or taking the purchased carp back into the water. A modern tradition is also the Bethlehem light, which is brought by Austrian scouts to Scouts from Brno and distributed throughout the Czech Republic. The light is then available in churches, squares, and so on.
New Year’s Eve (31 December) is a working day, but a large number of citizens are taking a holiday this day. All day is considered as a merry celebration of the end of the old year and the beginning of the new year. People review and evaluate the past year. Celebrations are different – from joint big events to sitting in a family circle. Sometimes people go on trips to the surrounding hills and mountains. This is where meetings are held by local people. New Year’s Eve celebrations include a menu consisting of various delicacies such as sandwiches, appetizers, cheeses, various chips etc. New Year’s Eve is celebrated with toasts and fireworks. Many cities organize midnight or more often New Year’s fireworks.
New traditions are linked to the New Year (1.1.), but most have been forgotten and are not respected. One of them is the saying: „the way you are on New Year’s day – that is the way you tend to be all the rest of the year long“. In some families lentils is served for lunch (to bring economic certainty).
Easter is celebrated in the Christian spirit, but at the same time i tis perceived as a spring holiday celebrating the awakening of nature. Easter (Friday and Monday) are recognized as public holidays. Easter is preceded by 4 days, which have their names – Ash Wednesday, Green Thursday, Good Friday, White Saturday. According to the Christian traditions, after the Green Thursday, the church bells are silenced all over the country, and again, they rise to the Easter Sunday.
The celebration of Easter is connected with many customs, which are, as in the case of Christmas, respected according to family or regional customs. Most of the Easter traditions are maintained in the countryside and in Moravia, which is associated with a greater number of believers in these areas.
Traditional Czech Easter dishes include Easter lamb cake and a cross bun. It is also lamb meat and egg dishes.
Christian celebrations take place until Sunday. Easter Monday is the day when more pagan customs are observed. The men and boys are weaving the so-called „pomlázka“ from the young willow rods, which then run out of girls and women. This will bring women health, beauty, diligence and joy throughout the year.
Girls and women then give boys and men the painted eggs, which are the symbol of fertility and life force. Currently, chocolate eggs or other sweets are also available. Egg painting is a great fun, there are a lot of techniques and ways of painting.
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2/ Traditions in Czech. Available from: http://ekomarket.cz/content/73–vanoce-v-cesku-a-ve-svete-171212 (2018-02-14)
3/ Traditions in Czech. Available from: https://www.ceske-tradice.cz/tradice/jaro/velikonoce (2018-02-14)
4/ Traditions in Czech. Available from: http://www.czech.cz/cz/Objevte-CR/Zivotni-styl-v-CR/Tradice/Jak-se-slavi-Velikonoce-v-Cesku (2018-02-14)
5/ Traditions in Czech. Available from: https://search.seznam.cz/?sId=O18_YKMgATC6MEU9N0ET&sourceid=top&q=tradice++v%C3%A1noce+a+zima&sgId=hVaokJIU_j1-0bfeLeP-ROwoknZvzGLbTn-aYGRvk7%3D%3D&oq=tradice++v%C3%A1noce+a+zima&aq=-1&su=b (2018-02-14)