Last week I wrote about how Halloween is one of the oldest holidays dating back centuries. It was made popular by the Celts and brought over to America by the Irish. However, many cultures around the world have their own way of celebrating this holiday. Ukrainians, for example, leave treats out on their windowsill for guests from the spiritual world. So what spin do the Czechs put on this special day?
Like many other cultures, Dusicky revolves around remembering and honoring deceased relatives. It is celebrated on November 2nd and a common tradition is to visit the graveyards where a one’s relatives are buried. People bring flowers, light candles and decorate the graves in rememberence of those who came before.
If you happen to be in Prague on November 2nd, you can visit a graveyard to see the decorated graves. The biggest graveyard in Prague is Olsany Cemetary and it can be a nice way to spend the day walking among the graves, thinking about life and death. Just make sure to remain respectful of the people who are there to remember their relatives.
Dusicky, or as it is spelled in Czech ‘Dušičky‘, means little souls. This day is also known in English as All Souls’ Day or All Saints Day. If you are familiar with Czech culture, you may be surprised that the least religious country in the world has a tradition that has such spiritual roots. Although the modern Czech is more likely to be atheist than not, they don’t shy away from celebrating holidays the traditional way.
However, their traditions may be different from yours… for example, it is Baby Jesus and not Santa who brings presents on Christmas, and if you are badly behaved then the devil, wearing chains, will come for you (parents pay people to dress up like the devil to scare their children into being good). Oh, and there’s usually a live carp in people bathtubs… Then on Easter, men will whip women in exchange for eggs to help them stay beautiful and fertile. But I’ll tell you more about these holidays another time.
When you live in a country where there are more castles than cities, it makes sense that people get into vampire lore. Move over Dracula, we Czechs have our own crazy stories! “Archaeologists have found considerable evidence that the living took precautions – sometimes grisly – to keep the dead from rising.” – Private Prague Guide
Back in 1966, a man decided to expand his home in Čelakovice, not far from Prague. The unsuspecting homeowner found a human skeleton. If this wasn’t creepy enough, the skeleton was missing an important part of it’s body – the skull! Once the police came and dug up the rest of the property, they found thirteen more adult bodies! A pathologist did an investigation to find out that these bodies were buried 1,000 years ago, facing the ground, and they were weighed down with stones to keep them from rising.
Other bodies have been found with what is believed to be an “anti-vampire” measure. In another Czech town of Prostějov, bodies were found buried in caskets that were bound with iron bars. Bodies have also been discovered with “knives thrust into their mouths to prevent them to drinking the blood of the living.” – Private Prague Guide
If you are into all things spooky, Prague is a great place to visit – not only because of the ancient vampire lore but also because of the scary tourist activities. These include ghost tours and of course, torture museums (yes, the ‘s’ is not a typo, there are multiple). I hope I haven’t given you too many things to have nightmares about tonight!
The featured image for this article comes from: http://www.myczechrepublic.com/czech_culture/czech_holidays/all-souls-day.html