Dusicky - Czech Halloween
Well, actually, Czech “Halloween” is not celebrated on October 31st but November 2nd. Another difference is that Czech kids do not get dressed in costumes on that particular night. And also nobody is going door-to-door collecting sweets. Yes, I know that now you may thing that I am crazy, because Halloween without costumes and trick-or-treating is no Halloween! But what Czechs celebrate on November 2nd is similar to Halloween and I am going to tell you how!
For Czechs, November 2nd is a day called Commemoration of All the Departed. It means that people celebrate the memory of deceased relatives at this time. Especially on this day they think of their loved ones that are gone forever. Many Czechs make journeys to visit the places where their relatives rest at last – the graveyards. They decorate the graves of their dead, bringing flowers and lighting candles in their memory.
And how is this similar to Halloween? Halloween and what Czechs celebrate on November 2nd have the same roots! I know it seems unbelievable at first but continue reading and you will be wiser.
Halloween originated among the Celts as a pagan harvest festival. Celts used to live not only in England and Ireland, as many think, but in most of Europe (around 500 BC). Celts, according to many evidence, lived in a region that is now the Czech Republic as well.
The Celts associated winter with human death. They believed that on October 31, which is the last day of the bright half of the year and the next day means the beginning of winter, the boundary separating the dead from the living became blurred. This day is therefore, based on Celtic mythology, a day when the spiritual world can make contact with the physical world.
During many years, every country has adjusted this Celtic festival as they liked it. Every culture adopted something else, changed it a bit, and over time even forgot the meaning of it. Czechs took the part saying that dead can speak to the living and vice versa. That is why they go to the cemeteries offering flowers, hoping that the dead will hear their prayer. Americans adopted the Celtic belief that malicious spirits might cross boundaries that night and threaten the community. That is why they dress up into scary costumes and spook other people.
I have, however, no explanation to why the feast in the Czech Republic has been shifted and celebrated on November 2nd. Any idea?
Anyway, on November 2nd, Czech cemeteries are decorated with flowers and glow with candles. It may be interesting for you to see this Czech tradition and feel the unique and picturesque atmosphere. You can visit the biggest graveyard in Prague – Olsany Cemetery (Olsanske hrbitovy in Czech). Take tram 10, 11 or 16 and get off at station Olsanske hrbitovy, or just walk from the subway station Zelivskeho (green line A). Just try not to sink into reminiscence.