May 1st Lovers Day

While Valentine’s Day is relatively new to the Czech Republic, globally more and more people against celebrating the overly-commercialized holiday. Czechs have a better way to celebrate love and the history of its development is quite amazing too. On May 1st you will find many couples taking walks through the park and kissing under blooming trees – they aren’t just posing for a romantic photograph or practicing for their wedding photo shoot,  it ensures fertility and beauty.

Originally couple’s kissed under a fruitful tree and this was supposed to ensure fertility.  But today it is said that if a woman is kissed under a blossoming tree then she will be attractive and beautiful throughout the year. May 1st also celebrates and welcomes spring but the romantics focus on the blooming of love and romance. However May 1st wasn’t always the day of love.

Originally Labor Day was a communist celebration where all the ‘good citizens’ paraded and waved flags to celebrate communist ideals. There were military shows and lots of flowers on this day back when Czech Republic was Czechoslovakia. It isn’t known if the kissing under trees tradition was around before the original Labor Day celebration or only formed after when people decided to keep the communist public holiday but transform it into something relevant and beautiful instead.

Many people tie the tradition to Karel Hynek Mácha, a Czech Romantic writer who was popular at the beginning of the 19thcentury. He wrote a tragic poem about two lovers, the most known verse goes like this:

It was late evening, on the first of May,
The eve of May was the time of love,
The turtle-dove’s voice called to love,
Where rich and sweet pinewoods lay.

The poem is a story about a young girl who is seduced and betrayed by a man. Later she meets and falls in love with his son, who kills his father for her. The girl then waits for him on the evening of the first of May, but is told that he will be executed in the castle for the murder he committed for her. While he waits he thinks about the beauty of nature and his life. He is decapitated the next day, and his head is placed on a pillar.

According to Wikipedia Mácha, the poet, supposedly comes across the skull seven years later and is told the story. He then returns to the place on the first of May and in the evening he compares his own life to the month of May. However the connection between the poet and the holiday has never been officially proven. But many still go to his statue in Petřín before kissing under a blooming tree. There is usually a cameraman taking a video of the couples kissing and documenting the number of those who come – don’t be discouraged, you can ask for the video of you not to be published online.

May 1st is always a beautiful day because of everything is blooming and growing, it is usually warm enough for a picnic, and love is always in the air. Try visiting the statue and join the other couples who sit on the hillside overlooking Prague. Romance, tragedy, hope and very little commercialism: Czech Lovers Day can definitely give Valentine’s Day a run for it’s money.

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