Hundreds of people turned out for a festive change-of-guard ceremony and an exhibition at Prague Castle marking 25 years since the establishment of an independent Czech Republic on Monday.
Viewers could admire the original copy of the Czech constitution, the country’s national symbols and high state distinctions and congratulatory letters to the country’s first president Vaclav Havel from foreign statesmen.
In the course of the year Prague Castle will hold several exhibitions dedicated to the centenary of Czechoslovakia.
Thousands of people saw the New Year in in the centre of Prague. Celebrations took place on Old Town Square where a music show kicked off in the early evening and on Wenceslas Square which had been cleared of cars by the police. No major disturbances were reported.
The main fireworks display organized by Prague City Hall is due to take place at 6 pm on January 1st. People should get a good view of it from the Dvorak embankment and the Mánes, Čechov and Štefánik bridges. The show was moved from midnight to the first day of the year so that it can be enjoyed by families with children.
The year 2018 will bring a number of significant anniversaries, such as the centenary of the birth of Czechoslovakia in October, fifty years since the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia and 25 years since the break-up of the common state of Czechs and Slovaks.
It will also bring a number of important political events. On January 12-13 Czechs will vote in the first round of presidential elections and two days earlier Prime Minister Babis will ask the lower house for a vote of confidence in his minority government. Since he has failed to win backing for it in the lower house, it is likely that he will make a second attempt at forming a government in February. The lower house will also vote on whether to strip the prime minister, who is suspected of EU subsidy fraud, of his immunity, opening the way for prosecution.
2018 will bring a number of significant changes in the social sphere, including a higher minimal wage which should reach 12,200 crowns a month, a four percent hike in pensions, amounting to close to 500 crowns a month and tax benefits for parents with children, as well as a more flexible parental leave and a week-long paternity leave. There will be more money for old age homes and caregivers and higher benefits for companies employing people with disabilities.
The start of the New Year has kicked off the largest and most successful fund-raiser in the country. The Three Kings Collection, organized by the Catholic charity Caritas involves thousands of volunteers, most of them children, taking to the streets dressed as the Three Wise Men, singing carols and asking people to donate money to charity. Since the year 2,000 the collection has raised overall 1.1 billion crowns in aid of the needy. It lasts for a fortnight.
The two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova pulled out of the Brisbane International with a viral illness on Monday. The former 2nd, now 29-seed,who won the tournament in 2011, was due to take the court in her first round match against Estonian Anett Kontaveit. She was replaced in the draw by Heather Watson. Kvitova is hoping to be fully recoverd for the tournament in Sydney next week.
Tuesday should be overcast with rain showers and day temperatures between 3 and 7 degrees Celsius.