When you live in a new country, it’s important to know which are the national holidays. For some they matter, for some they don’t, but it’s nice to know a little bit more about them, so you can better integrate in the country.
These are the national holidays in the Czech Republic:
1 January - New Year and Restoration Day of the Independent Czech State (Nový rok; Den obnovy samostatného českého státu)
There are two holidays celebrated on this day. In the Czech Republic, just like anywhere else, people celebrate the New Year.
Also, the independent Czech Republic was founded on 1 January, after Czechoslovakia ceased to exist on 31 December 1992, so that’s why there is a double holiday on that day.
March/April - Good Friday & Easter Monday (Velký pátek, Velikonoční pondělí)
Easter celebrations in Czech Republic are based on Christian traditions. Eggs are painted and exchanged, which is nothing strange and done in many countries. However, there is something rather different in this country (also Slovakia and some parts of Hungary) that is done during this holiday and it’s probably the most shocking tradition in this country to foreigners – the Easter whipping.
On Easter Monday, boys, but also men, walk with whips, and spank girls (both friends and cousins) on their behinds. In exchange, they get the painted egg, and when old enough – alcohol. The whipping is done using a whip made out of willow twigs, decorated with colorful ribbons - so called, pomlázka.
It is an old tradition but it has survived to this age. It’s still happening even in bigger cities. This custom originates from pagan rituals and provides women with health and fertility.
1 May - Labour Day (Svátek práce)
The first of May is a holiday not only in the Czech Republic but also in many other countries all over the world, also known as May Day or (International) Workers’ Day. It is commemorating the historic struggles and gains made by workers and the labour movement.
8 May - Victory/Liberation Day (Den vítězství or Den osvobození)
This day marks the end of World War II on the European continent. It commemorates both the Prague Uprising and the liberation of Czechoslovakia by Allied Forces.
Prague had actually survived most the war undamaged, but it was heavily damaged during the Prague Uprising (5–8 May). That is the time when the north and east wings of Prague’s Old Town Hall building, next to the Astronomical Clock, were completely destroyed. They have never been rebuilt since.
5 July - Saints Cyril & Methodius Day (Den slovanských věrozvěstů Cyrila a Metoděje)
Czechs celebrate the anniversary of the arrival of Slavic missionaries, Cyril and Methodius,to Great Moravia in 863. They came to today’s Czech Republic to spread Christianity among the pagan Slavs. They invented a special alphabet, translated parts of Bible to old Slavonic, and founded schools.
6 July - Jan Hus Day (Den upálení mistra Jana Husa)
Jan Hus was a catholic priest, university teacher, reformer and a preacher. He was advocating church reforms in the 15th century and eventually died for his beliefs. Condemned as a heretic, he was burned at the stake on 6 July 1415.
28 September - Czech Statehood Day (Den české státnosti)
The second of the three public holidays related to the Czech state is the day when the Czechs celebrate the foundation of the Czech Republic and remember the patron saint of Bohemia.
Wenceslas was the duke of Bohemia from 921 until his assassination in 935. On 28 September 935, he was murdered by his brother Boleslav and his supporters, and soon after his death, he became the patron of the Czech lands and honoured as a Catholic saint. One of the main squares in the city of Prague is named after him (Wenceslas square). Also, every year the Czech president gives St. Wenceslas medals to those who contributed to Czech statehood.
28 October - Independent Czechoslovak State Day (Den vzniku samostatného československého státu)
This is the day when, in 1918, the independent Czechoslovakia was declaredand the Austrian-Hungarian Empire ceased to exist at the end of World War I. Also, it’s the last holiday related to the Czech statehood.
17 November - Struggle for Freedom & Democracy Day (Den boje za svobodu a demokracii)
On 17 November 1939,Nazi Germany decided to close all Czech universities. Students protested, which ended up in a few of them being executed and hundreds ending up in the Nazi concentration camps. The second event took place on 17 November 1989 when a peaceful student demonstration against the regime turned into a violent event. That was the beginning of the Velvet Revolution, which lasted for the next 2 months.
24 December - Christmas Eve (Štědrý den)
25 & 26 December - Christmas (1. svátek vánoční, 2. svátek vánoční)
Christmas in this country is celebrated by having plenty of food on the table, dinner usually being carp and potato salad. Of course, lighting up the Christmas tree, and opening gifts. Religious people also visit churches.
In the weeks prior to the Christmas, there are Advent markets in city and town centres.