Czech people celebrate most of the common European holidays, but we of course have some specific ones. Also, there are some unique traditions connected to the wide-known feasts.
The new year starts with a national holiday called the New Year, or the Day of the Renewal of the Independent Czech State. It is held on the 1st of January and it remembers the establishment of the Czech Republic. On the 1st of January 1993 Czechoslovakia broke up and two new states – the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic were formed.
The school starts usually the first Monday after the New Year. On the 6th of January is the feast day of the Three Kings which is connected to a nationwide charity event.
In March or April, we celebrate Easter. Actually, just one day is considered to be a public holiday – Easter Monday. Children at elementary and high schools have two more free days (Thursday and Friday before Easter).
The typical Czech Easter custom is to paint eggs (this is the girls´ job). Boys go to find a willow tree and they weave a special bar from sticks called “pomlázka”. On Easter Monday they go from house to house, say special rhymes, and beat the girls with this bar. It is said the girls will be pretty, fresh, and healthy for the whole year after they have been beaten. The boys get the painted eggs then (nowadays they get chocolate, a shot, or money).
The 1st of May is Labor Day. It is a national holiday, there is no school or work. A national holiday – the Day of the Victory – is also held on the 8th of May. This day remembers the end of the Second World War in 1945.
On the 5th of July, we celebrate the Day of the Slavic Apostles Cyril and Metoděj. In 863 they came to the area of the Czech countries (Moravia) and in the next years, they held Mass in the local language. They also brought the first alphabet that was used in our country and translated the Bible.
The next day, on the 6th of July, there is another holiday. It is the Day of the Burning of Jan Hus. Jan Hus was a Czech priest, philosopher, reformer, and master at Charles University in Prague. He was accused of heresy against the Catholic Church and burned in 1415 during the Council of Constance.
The 28th of September is the feast of Saint Wenceslaus (Václav). This holiday is called the Day of the Czech Statehood. Václav was the duke of Bohemia and he lived in the 10th century. He is a patron saint of the Czech state. There are many legends connected to his person. The most famous says that a huge army of knights sleeps inside the mountain Blaník. The knights will awake and under the command of St. Wenceslaus, they will bring aid to the Czech people when they face ultimate danger.
Another national holiday is held on the 28th of October. It remembers the Foundation of the First Independent Czechoslovak Republic in 1918, after the First World War.
On the 2nd of November, we remember the deceased. People visit the graves of their relatives and bring wreaths and flowers. It is not a holiday.
On the 17th of November 1989, the students (mainly from the Charles University) went to the streets of Prague and demonstrated against the then communist government. The police brutally attacked them, but the people’s resistance to communists started to grow stronger and in a few days it ended with the election of a new democratic government, and the era of communism in Czechoslovakia ended. This day is remembered as the Day of the Fight for Freedom and Democracy, there is no school or work.
The 6th of December is the feast of Saint Nicholas (Mikuláš). In the evening on the 5th of December, Nicholas with an angel and a devil come to the homes of small children. They give small gifts to the children. If they were nice they got sweets, if they were naughty, they get potatoes and coal.
In December we also celebrate Christmas. The most important day is on the 24th of December. It is called Christmas Eve (in Czech “Generous Eve”). In the evening the family gathers for a dinner. It is usually fried carp with potato salad. After the dinner, they move to a living room where a decorated Christmas tree stands. Under the tree, they find gifts from the Christ Child.
Two more holidays are on the 25th and the 26th of December. These free days are usually used for visiting relatives or just spending time with the family. All these 3 days are holidays, there is no school or work. The teaching usually ends on the 22nd of December and starts again after the New Year.
The last day of the year (31st of December) is called Silvester. It is time to have fun with your friends and stay awake till midnight. Then you can watch many fireworks. This day is not a holiday so people should go to work.