FESTIVALS

1. Masopust

prac_info Shrove Tue

Czech swine start getting nervous in early February as the nation whets its appetite and knives for their version of Carnival. While the beer-and-pork orgies are more common in villages, working-class Žižkov throws a large party each year.

TopTen

Performers on the streets during the Carnival at Masopust

2. May Day

prac_info 1 May

It is customary for couples to visit the statue of the Czech Romantic poet Karel Hynek Mácha on Petřín Hill. For others the national holiday is spent trying to forget the old obligatory Communist rallies.

3. Prague Spring International Music Festival

prac_info May–Jun

Bedřich Smetana’s Má vlast, or My Homeland, kicks off the annual three-week festival that draws classical music performers and fans from around the globe. The round of concerts closes with Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

4. Tanec Praha

prac_info May, Jun

This international dance festival is on the verge of becoming something great. The local dance scene has greatly benefited from it, and audiences can now see contemporary productions all year round.

5. Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

prac_info Jul

It’s easier to hobnob with the stars here than at Cannes or Berlin. Hundreds of partygoers turn the sleepy west Bohemian spa town, 130 km (81 miles) from Prague, upside down for nine days. Hundreds of screenings, too.

TopTen

Performers at the Karlovy Vary

6. Street Theatre Festival

prac_info Jul

Za dveřmi (Behind the Door) is an international street art festival that presents drama, acrobatics, parades and juggling on the streets and squares of Prague.

7. Bohemia International Folklore Dance Festival

prac_info Aug

This festival has been a success since its first staging in 2005. It has now expanded beyond Prague, as DanceBohemia, and brings amateur folklore dance ensembles together from all around the world.

8. Prague Writer’s Festival

prac_info Time varies every year

Salman Rushdie, Susan Sontag and Elie Wiesel are just some of the internationally acclaimed authors who have attended this annual event. The organizers often get grief for giving Czech writers short shrift.

9. Pardubice Steeplechase

prac_info Oct

The first steeplechase here was held in 1874. With 31 jumps stretching over 7 km (4 miles), this is one of the biggest in Europe.

TopTen

A race at the Pardubice Steeplechase

10. Mikuláš, Vánoce, Silvestr

prac_info Dec

Christmas celebrations are largely devoid of religion, but the mulled wine starts flowing on St Nicholas’s Day and doesn’t stop until the Christmas carp is all eaten and the New Year’s Eve (Silvestr) fireworks arsenals are depleted.

TOP 10 NATIONAL HOLIDAYS

1. Renewal of the Independent Czech State

prac_info 1 Jan

Marks the 1993 split of Czechoslovakia.

TopTen

Traditional Czech Easter eggs

2. Easter Monday

prac_info Mar–Apr

Custom dictates that men give women a gentle whipping with a willow switch, and women respond with painted eggs.

3. Labour Day

prac_info 1 May

Romantics lay flowers before the statue of Karel Hynek Mácha on Petřín Hill.

4. Day of Liberation

prac_info 8 May

Plaques around town are adorned with flowers to remember those killed by the Germans in 1945.

5. Cyril and Methodius Day

prac_info 5 Jul

The Greek missionaries (see Cathedral of Sts Cyril and Methodius) brought both Christianity and the Cyrillic alphabet to the Slavs.

6. Jan Hus Day

prac_info 6 Jul

Czechs commemorate one of the greatest figures of Czech history (see World War II).

7. Czech Statehood Day

prac_info 28 Sep

Bohemia’s history is recalled on St Wenceslas Day, as most Czechs call it.

8. Independence Day

prac_info 28 Oct

In 1918 Czechoslovakia declared itself independent of Austro-Hungary.

9. Day of the Fight for Freedom and Democracy

prac_info 17 Nov

The Velvet Revolution anniversary is marked with candles and flowers.

10. Christmas

prac_info 24–26 Dec

Streets fill with carp sellers and hedonists drinking mulled wine.

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