Several fires planned for Witches Night

A ceremonial bonfire with an effigy chases away that last of the cold weather

Interest seems to grow every year in Witches Night. In the Czech Republic as well as some nearby countries an effigy of a witch is burned on a bonfire on April 30. The event is known here as Čarodejnice and in German-speaking countries as Walpurgisnacht.

It has become a family-oriented event a bit like Halloween, with costume contests and games for children, and usually outdoor grilling.

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.

In the past, heat-sensitive satellite cameras have detected the bonfires around the Czech-German border and across Bohemia.

Last year, though, drought restrictions canceled the fires in Prague. Hopefully that will not be the case again this year, as many people were bitterly disappointed.

The idea behind the holiday goes back to pagan times. April 30 was allegedly when witches would gather on high mountains. The fires were built on hills 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.

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

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 ragdoll, 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 and a DJ.

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.

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 a special program.

The riverside recreation area Žluté lázně starts its Čarodějnice at 2 pm, with a children’s program of facepainting and games. The fire should be lit around 6 pm. Then there is a concert by František Nedvěd, followed by a set by So Fine. Finally, there is an afterparty with a DJ at the Tančírna. There is an admission fee of Kč 50 for the concert, with children under 100 cm free.

The biggest celebration is at Ladronka, a big park in Prague 6. The free event starts at 2 pm and the fire will be lit at around 7:25 pm by Prague 6 Mayor Ondřej Kolář. There are two stages with music and shows plus a “magic zone,” as well as stands for all kinds of food and beverages.

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.
Malá Strana has one of the later events, starting at 7:15 pm and running to 10 pm. It starts in Malostranské náměstí and those gathered then parade with music to Kampa, where there will be a bonfire. This one is more aimed at adults.

Prague 3 has its Žižkovské čarodějnice at Prague Central Camp, located at Nad Ohradou 17. The program starts at 3 pm with children’s events. The fire will be lit at 6 pm. A concert by the band České srdce takes place at 7:30 pm. The band is marking 30 years of entertaining. This event is a bit smaller, and aimed at local people. Advertisements feature the Žižkov TV Tower, but beware that the actual location is rather far from that.

Břevnovský klášter in Prague 6 has another large event, a spring market with a witch burning. The 18. Jarní břevnovské trhy s pálením čarodějnic starts at 2 pm. There will be stands with food and beverages, face painting and other attractions. A fire for cooking sausages is lit at 3 pm, and the bonfire for the witch burning is lit at 5 pm. Dancing and music lasts until 10 pm.

Kasárna Karlín also has a witch burning from 7 pm to midnight, though details are a bit sketchy. The band Gerda Blank will perform and sausages will be roasted.


Select Witches Night events:

Žluté lázně: www.zlutelazne.cz or facebook.com/events
Ladronka: www.carodejnicenaladronce.cz or facebook.com/CarodejniceNaLadronce
Malostranské čarodějnice: facebook.com/events 
Žižkovské čarodějnice: facebook.com/events
18. Jarní břevnovské trhy s pálením čarodějnic facebook.com/events
Kasárna Karlín facebook.com/events 

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