Posted by: LM | May 22, 2008

Vypálit čarodějnice! (burn the witch)

April 30 is a day celebrated in the Czech Republic that definitely rivals “St. Nicholas Day” for the title of strangest holiday EVER! The background for this holiday started with the legend that said that witches controlled the weather. Back in the day Czechs believed that if the winter lasted a long time it was because the witch of the town was punishing them. This holiday is to honor them so that they will end the winter and bring spring. Just what do they do on “The Day of the Witches”? Well, first they get the older kids in the villiage to make a HUGE PILE of anything flamable. They pile this thing higher than you can even imagine and then at dusk they set it aflame. It’s basically a huge party for no reason at all. Singing, guitars, they even stick sausages into the flaming pile of junk and make a little picnic out of it. When it gets to be dark out they look into the sky hoping to see the face of the witch floating above them. Before this they heave a giant grass-stuffed body (the “witch”) onto the fire pile and watch her burn. Sounds like fun, right?

One of the guys I was in Prague with had a real knack for getting us all into the local culture. Every crazy Czech tradition we heard about he INSISTED that we be a part of. I’m just glad I was gone during Christmas so I didn’t have to watch him whack a fish to death and fry it up for dinner (yes, this IS a Czech Christmas tradition). Andy (that’s his name) decided that čarodějnice (the Czech name for Witches) day would be no exception. We went home that and fashioned our very own witch to burn. Most witches that are burnt for čarodějnice look like the one above. Ours looked like this:

She was made with paper, wrapping paper, old shoes and a mop. Look close and you’ll see that her hair is actually the mop yarn. I made her hat (and mine) out of construction paper. We named her Witchina. The boys bought some lighter fluid and boy did that baby burn.

It’s always fun to learn something new about different cultures in the world. This holiday was great because it was something silly that we could all have fun with together. We burnt Witchina on the shore of a pond near the boys’ flat and then we stood around and watched her burn. It was a fun night. Czechs and their random holidays definitely make me smile. 🙂

Here’s a video of us burning Witchina:

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