Burning the Witches is a popular holiday in the Czech Republic that takes place on April 30th. Despite the negative connotation, it is a happy holiday where many participants like to dress up as said witches. Although a large bonfire is a necessity for this event, no humans are burned during this event, even if they are wearing a pointy hat!
So why do Czechs like to pretend to burn witches? It is a long tradition that comes from the good old days when people believed in all things magical and superstitious. Today, this holiday simply celebrates the coming of spring. An effigy of a witch that kept winter around so long is prepared and burned.
Past Traditions of Burning the Witches
In the past, Czechs believed that warmer weather would weaken a witch’s power. The burning of the effigy would then bring on warmer weather. They would burn the effigy once it got dark. People would look forward to nightfall all day and once the witch was burned, they would roast sausages on sticks, play guitar and sing songs around the fire.
Villages would often have older kids in charge of building the biggest pyre. Lucky kids would be allowed to use tractors to haul large tree trunks! Nearby villages would turn this into a competition to see who could build the biggest fire. While the kids had fun the adults would all drink delicious beer and watch. It was also believed that all the evil spirits of the village would go up in smoke along with the witch*.
Burning the Witches is considered one of the weirder Czech holidays, along with their Easter whipping traditions. Other countries in Europe also celebrate on April 30th. Walpurgis Night, an abbreviation of Saint Walpurgis Night, also known as Saint Walpurga’s Eve, is the eve of the Christian feast day of Saint Walpurga, an 8th-century abbess in Francia.
Actual Witch Burnings
Although this is now a fun holiday that isn’t associated with violence, the Czechs actually burned real humans they deemed witches back in 1622. There were a lot of deaths around this time that had to do with religious disagreements. But I don’t want to spoil the fun mood of today’s witch burning holiday with the guesome history. If you’re interested, you can read about the Northern Moravian Trials here.
Follow The Travel Bug Bite for more fun and quirky celebrations from all around the world! Heads up, there’s one coming up tomorrow! The feature image for this article is taken from City Spy, you can read about this fun holiday on their website too!