How Czechia celebrates Halloween

How Czechia celebrates Halloween

Halloween, or more precisely All Souls Day, falls on 2 November

Everybody around the world has heard of Halloween at least once or of its Spanish equivalent “El Dia de los Muertos”.  The remembrance of the dead is a typical ritual in many countries around the globe. In Czechia, it is known as “All Souls Day” (Dušičky), and it is unique in its own way.

Some history

The roots of today’s celebration go back to the Celts. Saihman was a Celtic holiday which celebrated the end of the year.

The celebration took place on the night of the 31 October and the morning of 1 November. On this night, the Celts believed that the barrier between the dead and the living disappeared. Thus, the souls of those who have passed away may venture onto the earth, and the living may venture into the realm of the underworld.

The Celts used this time to reminisce about their loved ones who have died by lighting fires and candles. They believed that the fire acted as protection against the souls of the wicked and would guide the souls of the pure.

As the Celts did inhabit central Europe, it can be argued that the celebrations of Saihman took place even on the territory of what today is the Czech Republic. This holy day was later replaced by the All Saints' Day (which is celebrated on the 1 November) by the Catholic church and All Souls' Day marked on 2 November.

Celebrations and rituals

Driven by the belief, that life’s final chapter does not end with the coffin, people would usually visit a family grave or a crypt, an light a candle and decorate it with flowers.

On All Souls' Day, it is also possible for the families of those, who were wicked during their life, to pray for their redemption in the afterlife. It is believed, that on the day of 2 November, the souls are given a chance to redeem themselves of their past sins.

Some sources also state that families of a deceased sinner used to burn butter in oil lamps. The unforgiven souls then may bathe in the burned butter and cleanse themselves.

What about Halloween in the Czech Republic?

Halloween is not an official holiday in the Czech Republic, and thus it is not a non-working day. More often than not, it is still viewed as a foreign celebration and the majority of Czechs (young and old) do not have any real connection to it.

The only time we can see any real celebration of Halloween in the Czech Republic is in schools or children's and young people's parties.

One Halloween custom that is prevalent and is getting more and more popular in the Czech republic is pumpkin carving. As the 31 October approaches, we can see houses decorated with works of art all over the country.

What to do in the Czech Republic during Halloween?

As mentioned above, the traditional customs tied with All Souls' Day are more of a time for meditation and honouring the memory of your loved ones. When it comes to Halloween, however, even though it is not an established holiday, there are some activities you can indulge in.

On a normal year, most of the bars and pubs in the city centre of Prague are decorated in the spirit of Halloween. Events invite the little ones to dress up as witches, werewolves, ghosts or any other mystical creature. Some communities even organize events such as “haunted forests” for the kids.

But to fully understand the Czech culture and customs, you should probably go the traditional way of things and celebrate All Souls' Day. So, if you happen to be there on 2 November, light a few candles, and maybe even visit the nearest graveyard as sightseeing alternative.

And whilst doing so, remanence upon your loved ones. Who knows? Maybe time spent in such a meditative way, will somehow enrich your inner world or make you feel connected to a history that is rooted in the times of the old Celts.



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