Cards featuring the work of Josef Lada are an integral part of Czech Christmas. Lada is best known internationally for illustrations of the Good Soldier Švejk, but his simply drawn carol singers, snow covered villages and nativity scenes are just as popular in his native country. His grandson, also named Josef Lada, says the artist's images capture something everyone can relate to.
Last week the Czech National Museum launched a new exhibition called New Czech Fables (or New Czech Myths) at the Kinský summer palace, located at the edge of Prague’s Petřín Hill. The show examines urban legends, sayings, social rituals and counter-culture movements in the former Czechoslovakia as well as present-day Czech Republic. In this week’s Arts, Radio Prague takes a closer look.
The Lonely Planet guidebook has ranked Prague’s Christmas market among
the top five in Europe, alongside those in Cologne, Vienna, Bruges and
Strasbourg. The guide called the Prague market, held between late November
and early January on Old Town Square, a “gothic winter fairy tale”.
organizers said the listing was like a Michelin star.
This year’s Christmas market in Prague is in the Art Nouveau style with Christmas decorations inspired by the work of the painter Alphonse Mucha. However, the 50-year-old, 20-metre-tall Christmas tree standing in the centre of the market, does not come from the Krkonoše Mountains as reported by Lonely Planet, but from a village in central Bohemia.
On Sunday, which was the first Sunday of Advent, the lights were switched on on Christmas trees on main squares around the Czech Republic. But there is more to the brightly decorated evergreens than creating a seasonal spirit: in many cities and towns charity collections are held at the trees, with visitors donating cash and gifts to Czech children’s homes. It is a tradition that dates back more than eight decades.
Two people collapsed and had to be given emergency treatment after crowds thronged Prague’s Old Town square for the traditional switch on of Christmas lights on Saturday evening. Around 30,000 people crowded into the historic square and side streets leading to a crush and panic at some points. Some of the worst scenes were around the 52 metre high Christmas tree erected in the square and under the historic clock tower. Christmas markets have started in the square, nearby Wenceslas Square and at other points around the city.
This year’s Christmas tree for Prague has been felled and preparations are underway for its transport to the Czech capital. The 20-metre tall spruce tree will grace Prague’s Old Town Square and will be officially lit on the first advent weekend – on November 27th. Old Town Square traditionally hosts Prague’s biggest Christmas market.
UNESCO has added two Czech traditions to its Intangible Cultural Heritage list, promoting the safeguarding of traditions specific or unique to different parts of the world. One of the items added covers masks and traditions from the Hlinsko area in eastern Bohemia. Those are related to carnival parades beginning on or after Epiphany, the Christian feast day. The other tradition is falconry, a listing which had been proposed by 12 countries with similar heritage. Czech falconry has roots from the time of the Great Moravian Empire in the 9th century. The only previous Czech tradition listed by UNESCO was an 18th century military recruit folk dance from Slovácko, southeast Moravia, which was added in 2005.
The charming and historic West Bohemian town of Bečov nad Teplou has just hosted its third international symposium showcasing the blacksmith’s craft. The two-day event gave the public the chance to get up close and feel the heat of the braziers as a series of top smiths showed that this is very much a craft making a comeback.
April 30 is Čarodějnice, or Witches’ Night. In the past, this date was believed to bring the arrival of spring. People would gather to burn bonfires in order to dispel evil spirits. Nowadays, the celebration is still popular among Czechs, and the organizers of Prague’s biggest witches’ night celebration at Ladronka park are getting ready for a night full of magic and fire.
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