Witches Night in Prague

Several places will have fires and kid-friendly atmosphere on April 30

There is a tradition in the Czech Republic as well as some other nearby countries of burning an effigy of a witch on a bonfire on April 30. The event is known here as Čarodejnice and in German-speaking countries as Walpurgisnacht. There are so many bonfires that heat-sensitive satellite cameras can detect it from space, all around the Czech-German border and across Bohemia.

Several Prague districts organize family-friendly events and there is also a large one at Žluté lázně, followed by an evening concert.

In modern times, Čarodejnice has become a family event a bit like Halloween. The next day, May 1, is a national holiday for labor, and more popularly for love. So the witch burning is the prelude to a day usually spent walking in parks and kissing under blossoming cherry trees.

For Witches Night, kids often dress up in costumes, either as witches and warlocks or increasingly as random superheroes.

An effigy, usually a broom in old clothes or some large cloth doll, is placed in the center of a stack of logs, and people gather around to watch it burn. Depending on where you are, after the fire goes down to embers some people use it to roast sausages on long forks. In other places, it lights up the sometimes chilly night for a dancing.

Organized celebration aimed at families usually start in the late afternoon and finish by just after sunset. Typically there are contests and games before the fire is lit.

The idea behind the holiday goes back to pagan times. April 30 was when witches would gather on high mountains. The fires were built to ward off the evil, as the smoke drives the witches away. In German, Walpurgisnacht refers to the eve of the feast of St Walpurga, who can be called on the fight infestations, rabies and witches.

For many Czechs, the witch that is burned represents getting rid of the last of the cold and infertile spirit left over from winter.

The day April 30–May 1 is halfway between the spring equinox and summer solstice, one of eight calendar celebrations in the Wheel of the Year.

As Witches Night is a traditional Czech event, and not something devised for tourists, almost all of the contests and games are in the Czech language.

We have rounded up some of the more interesting events. There are many more, and lots of pubs and restaurants also have some fire and special program.

The riverside recreation area Žluté lázně will be starting its season with Velký dětský čarodějnický. The free event begins at 2 pm, with face painting, contests and games. The fire should be lit around 6 pm. The opening day continues into the night with a free concert by František Nedvěd and Tiebreak, which is technically a separate event.

Perhaps the biggest celebrations is at Ladronka, a big park in Prague 6. The free event starts at 2 pm and the fire is lit at around 7 pm. There are many stands for all kinds of food and beverages, and entertainment for kids at several spots, while the main contests occur at a big stage. Several bands are scheduled to play including David Stypka & Bandjeez, The event should end around 9 pm, so as not to cause noise in the residential neighborhood.

Prague 3 has its Žižkovské čarodějnice at Pražačka, an area near the Žižkov tram depot. It runs from 3 pm to 9:30 pm, with the fire being lit at 6 pm. There is storytelling and magic before the fire, and live music after. This event is a bit smaller, and aimed at local people.

Malá Strana has one of the later events, starting at 7 pm and running to 11 pm. It starts in Malostranské náměstí and those gathered then parade with music to Kampa, where there will be a fire. This one is more aimed at adults.

Prague 6 has another large event, a spring market with a witch burning, held for the 17th time. The 17. Jarní břevnovské trhy s pálením čarodějnic starts at noon at Břevnovský klášter. There will be stands with food and beverages, face painting and other attractions. The fire is lit at 5 pm, making it one of the earliest.

For those who want a bare-bones fire to roast some sausages with no official program, Koupaliště Džbán offers just that. Kids are welcome, but dogs are not.

Select Witches Night events:

Velký dětský čarodějnický den
Čarodějnice na Ladronce
Žižkovské čarodějnice
Malostranské čarodějnice 2018
17. Jarní břevnovské trhy s pálením čarodějnic
Čarodějnice at Koupaliště Džbán 

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