Czech Public Holidays 2011

Find out when and why you get time off this year

The Czech Republic has 13 national holidays, marking either historical anniversaries or Christian festivals.

In Prague, expect government buildings, offices, and banks to close. Most shops also shut, although some larger stores and supermarkets should stay open, especially in the center. Most restaurants and pubs should also stay open.

Expect more limited opening hours and special public transport schedules, however, on December 24, December 25, December 31 and January 1.

Also, remember that Czech holidays are observed on the day they fall in the calendar. If that's a Saturday or a Sunday, you probably won't be getting time off work. (In 2011, the January 1, April 24, May 1, May 8, December 24 and December 25 holidays all fall on weekends.)

Saturday the 1st
New Year's Day/Czech Republic Independence Day
(Nový rok/Den obnovy samostatného českého státu)
As well as marking the start of the new year, this holiday now also marks the anniversary of the 1993 Czech-Slovak "Velvet Divorce." The start of the new year is usually marked by a major fireworks display on Letenské sady but 2011's show was cancelled for financial reasons.

Sunday the 24th & Monday the 25th
Easter Sunday & Easter Monday
(Velikonoční pondělí & Velikonoční neděle)
Easter Sunday and Easter Monday, as calculated by the Western Church, are Czech public holidays -- though only the Monday, of course, gets you an extra day off work. For more on local traditions, see our Easter in Prague article.

Sunday the 1st
Labor Day
(Svátek práce)
Closely linked with the Soviet era, the Labor Day tradition actually dates back to 19th-century Chicago, where a general strike ended in the infamous 1886 Haymarket Riot. Post-1989, May 1 has become a day for rallies and demonstrations.

Sunday the 8th
Victory in Europe Day
(Den vítězství)
In Communist-era Czechoslovakia, this public holiday marking the end of World War II was originally celebrated on May 9, as it was in the Soviet Union. In 1991, VE Day was brought forward to May 8, the day observed by the Western allies.

Tuesday the 5th
Saints Cyril & Methodius Day
(Den slovanských věrozvěstů Cyrila a Metoděje)
July honors ninth-century missionaries Cyril and Methodius. Cyril created the first written Slavic alphabet, which his brother Methodius used to make the first Slavic translation of the Bible.

Wednesday the 6th
Jan Hus Day
(Den upélení mistra Jana Husa)
A religious reformer, Hus challenged the Catholic church, preaching in Czech rather than Latin, and campaigning against corruption. He was burned at the stake in 1415 -- an event this holiday commemorates. Since his death, Hus has become a national hero, and his statue now stands in Old Town Square.

Wednesday the 28th
Czech Statehood Day (St. Wenceslas's Day)
(Den české státnosti (Svátek svatého Václava))
As a result of a political compromise, this public holiday celebrating the Czechs' patron saint doesn't actually bear his name. (Left-wing parties were uncomfortable with Nazi exploitation of St. Wenceslas's Day under German occupation.) A 10th-century Bohemian prince, Wenceslas (Václav in Czech) was murdered because of his Christian beliefs. Prague's main square bears both his name and an iconic horseback statue of the saint. He's also immortalized in the (historically inaccurate) Christmas carol Good King Wenceslas.

Friday the 28th
Czechoslovak Independence Day
(Den vzniku samostatného československého státu)
October 28 marks the creation of Czechoslovakia, in 1918, even though the country no longer exists. Prior to World War I, the Czech and Slovak lands had, for several centuries, been part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Czechoslovakia split into two parts -- the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic -- following 1993's "Velvet Divorce."

Thursday the 17th
Day of the Students' Battle for Freedom and Democracy
(Den boje za svobodu a demokracii)
November 17 is effectively the Czech Republic's "Velvet Revolution" holiday, marking the Communist regime's brutal suppression of a 1989 student demonstration, and also the 1939 protest that that march commemorated. In '89, as a result of the police's actions, the dissident movement gained almost-immediate mass support, and the regime would last only a few more weeks. For more on 1989, see our Revolutionary Walkabout article.

Saturday the 24th, Sunday the 25th & Monday the 26th
Christmas is a three-day public holiday in the Czech Republic, beginning on December 24 with Štědrý den ("Generous Day"), when families traditionally sit down to Christmas dinner and exchange gifts. The following two days, known as 1. svátek vánoční and 2. svátek vánoční ("First Christmas Day" and "Second Christmas Day"), are quieter affairs. For more on this, see our Czech Christmas Traditions article.

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