Monday, 3 May 2010
Although May 1st is the official bank holiday, the real day for celebrations in the Czech Republic is Witches Night the day before. This is the night when all over the Czech Republic villages raise their maypoles, when bonfires are lit, witches burnt (well images anyway) and women jump over the flames to improve their fertility. This is the celtic festival of Beltane in fact and so much more preferable to Mayday itself with all its communist connotations.
Here in Cesky Krumlov the maypole was erected in the Eggenberg Brewery Gardens. The maypole was a tall fir tree stripped of all but its topmost branches and decorated by paper streamers - added by local maidens in traditional clothes assisted by many small children. The final touch was, in true Czech style, a bottle of slivovice. This was very much a Czech and local occasion, hardly any tourists made their way to the site. The gardens were full of Czech families, enjoying local bands on the main stage, drinking beer, cooking sausages on the bonfire, and looking at the stalls set up by local community groups.
As I took the late bus home to Horice Na Sumave surrounded by happy Czechs, I could not help thinking what a good idea it was to have a state bank holiday on the day after Witches Night, we were all going to need a lie-in to recover from the festivities.