Today is my half birthday. With exception of a year in middle school where my friends all gave me half presents (such as one flip flop or half a sandwich), half birthdays usually aren’t celebrated. However, I do want to note the significance of the tradition that happens in the Czech Republic on this day. How interesting it is that both my half birthday and actual birthday fall on days that celebrate witches, evil spirits, and supernatural.
Palení čarodějnic or Burning Of The Witches is a tradition celebrated across Europe as a way to say goodbye to winter and hello to spring. In Germany it is called Walpurgis Night. The tradition may be linked to Beltane, a Celtic fire festival and a part of the 16th and 17th Century witch trials. The celebration is most similar to our Halloween in the states.
Huge bonfires up to 8 meters tall are a hallmark Čarodějnic. The children have competitions to see who can build the highest pyre. A witch is made from old clothes and stuffed with straw. She is then tied to a broomstick and paraded through town. Once dark, she is thrown atop the pyre to burn as a representation of the end of winter. The black smoke from the fire symbolizes the witch spirits flying away.
Pagans believed May 1st was the beginning of the newKnow half year and of warm weather. They believed that they must remove the evil powers that gathered inside them during the cold, dark winter.
Another story states that during the Middle Ages, April 30th was the height of evil power and the witches all assembled on this night. In order to weaken their power, fires must be lit on the hills and old broom sticks thrown into them.
Many of the old traditions are still practiced in the smaller towns. Larger towns prepare a gathering or presentation at museums. And still others use this holiday as an excuse to go out doors, roast sausage by the fire, and drink good beer. In Prague, the festival is staying strong in the neighborhood of Ladronka. Listen to Radio Prague to find out more go to: http://www.radio.cz/en/section/curraffrs/czechs-celebrate-carodejnice-an-annual-witch-burning-festival
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