Otázka: Holidays, festivals and traditions
1) THE CZECH REPUBLIC:
New Year´s Day (1st January):
The first of January is New Year’s Day. This day also marks the beginning of the independent Czech Republic. The Czech Republic came into existence on January 1, 1993 after the separation of Czechoslovakia into two states – the Czech and Slovak Republics (on December 31, 1992). This festive day usually starts late because most Czechs try to get over their hangover. Many people prepare a big meal including pork for good luck and lentils for prosperity because on New Year´s Day it is often said: “How on New Year’s Day so all the year round”. Stay away from fish or poultry today. Those meals may force your luck to swim or fly away! Celebrating these days starts for many people (particularly for young people) several hours before midnight on 31st December (New Year´s Eve) when they have a fun and drink alcohol with friends, but official celebrating starts at midnight, when people welcome New Year’s Day. They do fireworks, toast with champagne and wish something.
Easter (Easter Sunday and Monday):
Easter is an important Christian holiday, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus was crucified on the cross on Good Friday and came back to life on Easter Sunday. Because of it we celebrate Easter on the first Sunday and Monday after the first spring full moon (in either March or April). In the Czech Republic Easter is a mixture of Christian and pagan traditions. On the morning of Ester Monday, boys and men go carolling. It means that they whip girls and women on their bottoms with a willow stick or juniper and spritz perfume on them or throw them into cold water to make sure they stay healthy and beautiful for the rest of the year. As a reward girls give to them hand-painted eggs and some refreshment (Easter lamb). In fact, kids get a lot of chocolate sweets and adult men are often treated with a shot of alcohol, so they can get very weary in the middle of the day if they visit a few female friends.
Labour Day/Workers Day/May Day (1st May):
An international Day of Labour is celebrated to remember a strike by American workers in Chicago that took place on May 1, 1886. At the time, most workers worked ten to twelve hours, six days a week. The strikers wanted an eight hour work day. The police attacked the strikers for no reason and some of them were killed. This led to protests in many other countries so May Day isn´t celebrated only in the Czech Republic. Nowadays it is another day off. May 1 has also become a day of love when lovers kiss under blooming cherry trees or, if in Prague, go and pay tribute to K. H. Mácha, the poet of all in love.
Liberation Day (8th May):
Liberation Day celebrates the end of World War II on May 8, 1945. On this day, the Germans agreed to an unconditional surrender and Prague was liberated in the morning on May 8, 1945 by the Soviet Army. It is a good time to remember the people who fought and died for our freedom. The Czech president, political representatives and WWII veterans commemorate the end of the war by placing flower wreaths at memorials of the victims of WWII.
Saints Cyril and Methodius Day (5th July):
A day to remember St. Cyril (Constantine) and St. Methodius, who brought Christianity to Great Moravia in the 9th century. They influenced the cultural life because they used the old Slavic language and they created Glagolitic alphabet.
Jan Hus Day (6th July):
On July 6 in 1415, religious reformer Jan Hus was burned at the stake in Kostnice. Jan Hus was a Catholic priest and the rector of Charles University, who died by burning for spreading his revolutionary criticism against the Catholic Church (he wanted to stop corruption). Because of these two days off, Cyril and Methodius on July 5 followed by Jan Hus Days on July 6, Czechs take two days off and join them with the weekend, and they spend it at their summer cottages.
St. Wenceslas Day/Czech Statehood Day (28th September):
This Day commemorates the anniversary of the death Prince Wenceslas, one of the early Premyslid dukes of Bohemia. On September 28, 935 the Prince was murdered by his brother (Boleslav I.) and soon became St. Wenceslas, patron saint of the Czech Nation. Many legends were created afterwards, one of the longest squares in Prague is named after this historical figure and the statue of Saint Wenceslas at the top of the square is a popular meeting point.
Independent Czechoslovak State Day (28th October):
On this day in 1918, the independent Czechoslovak Republic was founded. After World War I, the Austro-Hungarian Empire disappeared and an independent country was established. TomášGarrigue Masaryk became Czechoslovakia´s first president. On this day the president of the republic gives honours to people who did special deeds.
All Souls´ Day (2nd November):
This day is dedicated to honouring deceased family members. People go to the cemetery to place flowers and candles on their graves.
Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day (17th November):
17th November isa day when we remember very important milestones from our history – it honours the student demonstrations against the Nazis in 1939, as well as the protests against the Communists in 1989. In 1939, Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia and proclaimed it the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. Czech students demonstrated against the occupation and the demonstration was brutally suppressed (stopped). In reaction, Czech universities were closed by the Nazis on November 17. In 1989 the Velvet Revolution started as a student demonstration against the communist regime. This day commemorates the struggle and fight for freedom. Some people bring flowers and light candles on „Národnítřída“ in Prague and other places connected with the Velvet Revolution.
St. Nicholas Day (5th December):
In the evening before St. Nicholas Day person dressed like St. Nicholas with a devil and an angel walk from house to house and give sweets to the children who behave well.
Christmas (24th – 26th December):
Christmas is a Christian holiday, celebrating the birth of Jesus, the son of Joseph and his wife Mary (baby was born in a stable in Bethlehem and his arrival in this world was announced by a comet that appeared in the sky). It traditionally spans three days – Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and St. Stephen´s Day (Second Day of Czech Christmas). Advent begins four weeks before Christmas Eve that is 24th December. The third Sunday before Christmas is called Bronze Sunday, the second one Silver Sunday and the first Sunday before December 24th is Golden Sunday. Christmas Eve (24th December) is the most important feast day of all the Czech holidays. In the morning families usually eat sweet breakfast (Christmas cake and Christmas pastry) and then go for a walk, or watch TV and decorate a Christmas tree. In the afternoon can people watch TV or help with preparing dinner, which is usually prepared by mothers. In the evening the family gathers together to have a traditional dinner that consists of fish/lentil/pea soup and carp fillet with potato salad. After dinner children await the ringing of the bell that announces that little baby Jesus has come to visit them and left presents under the Christmas tree. People also sing carols (Christmas songs), which can be heard on the radio and TV. Some of the best-known are: “Good King Wenceslas”, “Silent Night”, or “Jingle Bells”.People often go to a midnight mass on Christmas Eve. Christmas Day (25th December) is not celebratedin a special manner in the Czech Republic, but the day is a time for family visits. The 25th is not as important a day as in English‑speaking countries where children receive their presents. St. Stephen´s Day (26th December) is other Christmas day when family visits continue.
2) GREAT BRITAIN:
New Year´s Day (1st January):
A very famous day in the United Kingdom (as in whole world) is New Year´s Day. In Scotland celebration of the New Year is called “Hogmanay” and begins with the arrival of the guests who have been invited to join the family to see in the New Year. Their dinner consists of minced heart, lung and liver of a sheep, boiled in a sheep’s stomach with oatmeal. Before midnight people gather in the square and sing and dance in a Scottish style. At midnight, people cross arms, link hands for a traditional song “Auld Lang Syne”. On New Year´s Eve (31st December) people have parties at midnight. In London people go to Trafalgar Square where they sing and dance and some enthusiasts traditionally swim in the fountain.
St. Valentine´s Day (14th February):
14th February is a day of lovers, when many people send a Valentine´s card to someone they love, fancy, admire or secretly like. Usually you don´t sign your name. The person who receives the card has to guess who sent it. Lovers also exchange the small most often red gifts like plush animals, roses etc.Legend about St. Valentine says that in 3 AD Rome was ruled by an emperor called Claudius who wanted to expand his country so he needed a big army. He expected men to volunteer to join but many men just didn´t want to fight in wars, they didn´t want to leave their wives and families. Because of it, Claudius decided not to allow any more marriages. But there was a priest called Valentine who didn´t like Claudius and didn´t agree with his decision. So Valentine kept on performing marriage ceremonies secretly but one night he was caught by soldiers, thrown in jail and told that his punishment was death. Many young people came to the jail to visit Valentine and threw flowers and notes up to his window, including the daughter of the prison guard. They sometimes talked for hours so she helped him to keep his spirits up. On the day Valentine was to die, he left her a little note thanking for relationship and loyalty and he signed it “Love from your Valentine”. Maybe since that time started the custom of exchanging love messages on Valentine´s Day.
St. David´s Day (1st March) and St. Patrick´s Day (17th March):
St. David is the patron saint of Wales and St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland where there are holidays on this day (it is a happy day celebrated with parades, dances, beer drinking and colour of the day is green).
Pancake Day/Shrove Tuesday:
It is the day before Lent starts. Lent is a Christian fast which lasts for 40 days before Easter. Pancake Day is traditionally a day of celebration, the last day that you can eat what you want until Easter. Pancakes are made of flour, eggs and milk, all things which should not be eaten during Lent. Some towns also hold pancake races on that day. People run through the streets holding a frying pan and tossing the pancake in the air. If they drop pancake, they lose the race.
April Fool´s Day (1st April):
You can play jokes on people, even on teachers. When they discover the joke, you say “April Fool!”.
Easter (March or April):
Easter is for people in Great Britain the biggest festival after Christmas that celebrates a resurrection of Jesus. On Good Friday, people eat hot cross buns which are small sweet toasted rolls eaten with butter. People give each other chocolate Easter eggs and a card on Easter Sunday. An Easter card usually has a picture of a duckling or a lamb on it, because it symbolizes spring time. Children often take a normal hen´s egg, boil it, and paint it with bright colours. Then they all get together on top of a hill and have an egg race by rolling the eggs down the hill. Easter Monday is a holiday and many people travel to the seaside for the day or go and watch one of the many sporting events, such as football or horse-racing.
St. George´s Day (23rd April):
St. George is the patron saint of England.
May Day (1st May):
As summer comes, Britain likes to celebrate the end of the winter. On 1st May children may be seen dancing round the Maypole on village greens, weaving their brightly coloured ribbons into a beautiful pattern. Original dance is called Morris dance (originally only men danced it in a circle with bells but nowadays also women dance it).
Mother´s Day/Mothering Sunday:
It is the second Sunday in May when people give flowers to their mothers.
Spring Bank Holiday (the last Monday in May):
Public holidays when banks, post offices, shops and some attractions are closed.
It is the third Sunday in June.
Notting Hill Carnival (the last weekend in August):
The end of August is carnival time at Notting Hill in west London. People who take part dress up in fabulous costumes. Steel bands play African and Caribbean dance music and people dance in the streets. It is the biggest carnival outside Brazil.
Summer Bank Holiday (last Monday in August):
Public holidays when everybody rushes to the seaside.
Halloween means the Eve of All Saints´ Day or All Hallows Day and originally it was the Celtic New Year´s Eve because the Celtic New Year started on 1st November, the beginning of winter. Although it started in the UK, it became more popular in America. Children dress up as witches, ghosts, devils, cats, bats or anything scary. Houses are decorated with pumpkins with candles put inside (jack-o’-lanterns). People may play different games for fun, such as trying to eat an apple from a bucket of water without using their hands. Some children follow the American custom called “Trick or Treat” – they knock at your house and ask “Trick or Treat?”. If you give them some money or some sweets (a treat), they go away. Otherwise, they play a trick on you, like squirting water in your face, making a lot of noise or spilling flour on your front doorstep.
Guy Fawkes´ Night/Bonfire Night (5th November):
Guy Fawkes is Britain´s most famous terrorist. On 5 November 1605, Guy Fawkes planned to blow up the Houses of Parliament and the King of England, James I (the Gunpowder Plot). The plot was discovered and Guy Fawkes was hanged. Since that day the British traditionally celebrate 5th November by burning a dummy, made of straw and old clothes, on a bonfire. This dummy is called a „guy“ (like Guy Fawkes) and children can often be seen on the pavements before 5th November saying: „Penny for the guy.“ If they collect enough money, they can buy some fireworks. Fireworks are set off to recall the explosions that should have taken place in Parliament. Today many bonfires and firework displays are organized by the local councils to avoid the danger of accidents.
Remembrance Day (11th November):
On November 11 (the date when WWI ended in 1918) soldiers who have died in wars and war veterans are remembered.
St. Andrew´s Day (30th November):
St. Andrew is patron saint of Scotland.
Christmas (24th – 25th November):
For most British families the most important festival of the year is Christmas Day, 25th December. It combines the Christian celebration of the birth of Christ with the traditional festivities of winter. Going home for Christmas is a custom and no distance is too great for anybody to join the family circle for the holiday. Most families decorate their houses with brightly-coloured paper, mistletoe, and they usually have a Christmas tree in the corner of the front room. The Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square in London is an annual gift from Norway. On almost every front door a red and green symbol of the Christmas season hangs – a wreath of green holly with its red berries and red bow with the letters “MERRY CHRISTMAS”.There are a lot of traditions connected with Christmas, but perhaps the most important one is the giving of presents. They haven’t traditional celebration on Christmas Eve. December 24 has never been a holiday, it is the only day of the year reserved for the office party. Some people spend this day shopping. Before children go to bed, they hang up Christmas stockings at the end of their beds or on the fireplace, they believe, that Father Christmas rides through the air on a sledge drawn by reindeers (the leading reindeer is Rudolf) and comes down the chimney and fills up the stockings with presents and toys. Children also leave out mince pieces for Father Christmas to eat when he comes into their house.Most families open their Christmas presents, found under the Christmas tree, on 25thDecember at breakfast time. At midday is served Christmas dinner, which consists of roast turkey, roast potatoes and other vegetables, Christmas pudding (a type of rich dark brown cake made well ahead before Christmas and containing a coin, a thimble and a ring to bring wealth, work and wedding), mince-pies (pastry filled with a mixture of fruit and nuts), nuts, fruit and sweets. At tea-time they have Christmas cake.People also sing carols (Christmas songs), which can be heard on the radio and TV. People like to send Christmas cards to their friends, wishing them „Merry Christmas and Happy New Year“.
Boxing Day (26th November):
The next day after Christmas Day is called Boxing Day, also a public holiday. It comes from the earlier time, when people gave postmen, milkmen, newspaper-boys small sums of money, which they collected in their Christmas boxes. For children this day means a beginning of the pantomime season which ends at Easter. Pantomime is a theatre show based on a fairy tale with music, dancing, acrobatics and clowning. The stories come from all over the world (“Little Red Riding Hood” etc.). Boxing Day is also the time to visit friends and relatives.
There aren’t national holidays in the USA, but each state could make a decision about a term of their holidays. Most states observe the federal public holidays. There are many ethnic groups in USA, which brought their own customs.
New Year´s Day (1st January):
People visit friends and get New Year´s resolutions. On New Year´s Eve (31st December) a lot of people spend this time in Times Square where they sing the song “Auld Lang Syne” (it means “Old days gone bye” and has Scottish origin).
Martin Luther King´s Day (3rd Monday in January):
It is a festival on honest of M.L.King, black leader and civil and human rights campaigner. It’s holiday for banks and government institutions are closed. Children watch educational programs about racism, civil rights, M.L. life and ideas…
St. Valentine´s Day (14th February):
It is celebrated as same as in Britain.
President´s Day (3rd Monday in February):
It is a bank holiday when all American presidents are honoured.
Families across America colour eggs in many ways to celebrate Easter. On Easter morning children find fun baskets filled with candy, small toys, and some of those coloured eggs. At church or at home children participate in an Easter Egg Hunt, in which they must find eggs and candy that have been hidden around the yard in bushes or trees. Usually there is a specially marked egg and the finder of it wins a toy prize or money. Many adults receive beautiful, white Easter lilies. There is a traditional Easter Egg Roll in front of the White House in Washington.
Mother´s Day (2nd Monday in May):
People give flowers and small gifts to their mothers.
Memorial Day (last Monday in May):
This day honours Americans, who were killed in all wars. Flowers and flags are placed on the graves of the war dead.
Flag Day (14th June):
It’s birthday of the USA flag. People show respect for their national symbol by flying it.
Father´s Day (3rd Sunday in June)
Independence Day/Fourth of July (4th July):
It is the anniversary of the signing of theDeclaration of Independence, the daythe country announced its independencefrom Great Britain in 1776. During the day people take part in parades, go for picnics and barbecues, display flags, at night thousands of people gather to see fireworks. They enjoy parties and watch baseball matches.
Labor Day (1st Monday in September):
It honours all working people and USA has a day of rest. It’s official end of summer and beginning the school. People go picnicking and have barbecues.
Columbus Day (2nd Monday in October):
This day is an anniversary of the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus in 1492.
Halloween (31st October):
It is celebrated in the same way as in Britain, but it is much important than in Britain.
Veteran´s Day (11th November):
It honours everyone who has done military service in war time. People organize parades, fly flags, visit cemeteries, and go to the religious services. The moment of silence is at 11 o´clock.
Thanksgiving (4th Thursday in November):
It celebrates the first harvest of Pilgrims who came to Plymouth in 1620. They sailed from England to America, 100 people on a ship called “Mayflower”. They looked for a religious freedom and they wanted to start a new life. It was difficult because they didn’t know anything about new land. Then they met a Native Americans who helped them – they gave them a lot of advice (how to grow food, corn, build better houses, how to treat their illnesses). After a year they wanted to say thanks them so they invited them for have a dinner (1621). Now it is an occasion for the family to be together (2 days off) and having a traditional dinner – stuffed turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie for desert. The Friday of Thanksgiving weekend is traditionally a busy shopping day because people start to buy presents for Christmas.
Christmas is the annual holiday tocommemorate the day Jesus Christ was born, celebrated on December 25. Santa Claus brings gifts for children in the morning, and families traditionally eat a roast turkey meal. On Christmas Day shops are closed and people have a day of rest. Families invite friends to join them at Christmas dinner.