Czech Republic Traditions
Prague is undoubtedly not only the political and economic, but also the cultural center of the country. The city has an architectural heritage dating back to many eras and styles, but mainly attributable to that moment of the fifteenth century when the city, under the reign of Charles IV of Luxembourg, played the role of imperial residence. In that period sculpture and painting reached very high levels (with the spread of the “beautiful style”); the Holy Roman Emperor called the great architect from Sweden Peter Parler to enrich the city with Gothic buildings worthy of a capital; the cultural flourishing led to the foundation of the first university in the country (the Charles University). Unfortunately, all this ended in 1526, when the annexation to the kingdom of Hamburg was the prelude to the Prague and Czech decadence. For centuries the national language remained only oral and the main arts were imported from Vienna and the rest of Europe. Only from the nineteenth century did we witness the recovery of the Czech national genius, romantic philology and literary genres flourished (epic poem, historical novel, publicist journalism), and architecture in the neoclassical and neo-Gothic styles. Between the end of the nineteenth century and the first thirty years of the following century there was also a Prague revival, Kafkaesque writing, the slightly sinister cheerfulness of the art nouveau buildings, the rigid and immobile atmosphere of the Cubist works. After forty years of communist rule, of regime architecture and exile or clandestine literature, the Czech Republic has now opened up to the world again, and the first effect of this change has been the millions of tourists who have invaded its capital. There are numerous shows (theatrical, musical, dance, etc.) and cultural events that Prague hosts; among these we mention the international music festival Prazske jaro (Prague Spring), the Mozart festival (in September), the international jazz festival, organized on the occasion of the anniversary of the birth of Czechoslovakia (October 28, 1918). As for the cultured musical tradition, other internationally famous festivals take place in Brno and Kromeriz. From a folkloric point of view, the country maintains very lively traditions, particularly preserved in the more isolated areas of Bohemia and Moravia. The major events are linked to religious holidays (Christmas and Easter) and the arrival of summer, and based on a mixture of Germanic and Northern European customs.
According to aparentingblog, there are numerous traditional customs related to sacred holidays. Linked to the Christmas period are the apparitions of disguised characters carrying gifts, the most characteristic being Krištidl, a dwarf disguised as an angel, and Štědrá Bába, an old lady who remembers our Befana. Another occasion close to the Christmas period to receive gifts is the evening of December 5, when the Devil and St. Nicholas (Čert a Mikuláš) come into homes to bring gifts or punishments to good children and the most undisciplined ones. Easter is also linked to pagan celebrations for the arrival of spring. On that day, in fact, wooden mannequins, representing the concluded winter, are carried in procession out of the villages and drowned, while the eggs and green twigs with which the rite is celebrated are the emblem of the good season to come. Also of ancient tradition are the ritual customs on the occasion of May 1st, with the display of flowering saplings (i máje) in front of the doors of the girlfriends; and “the burning of the witches” (local version of the “Walpurgis night”) which involves the raising of bonfires on the hills where old brooms are burned, celebrating until dawn with fireworks. Traditional costumes are still in use in some areas of Wallachia and northeastern Moravia. On the territory of the country there are also many open-air museums (skansen) that offer a reconstruction of typical houses or even entire villages, set up with all the typical furniture and furnishings recovered for the occasion. Numerous music festivals include the Prague Spring (Pražké jaro), an international festival that takes place in the capital at the end of spring, and the International Jazz Festival. Representative of the Czech cultural identity is the tradition of puppet and marionette theater, of which Prague is home to the national headquarters. Among the traditional characters of the country, the most illustrious is certainly the Golem, a character modeled in mud and animated with magic formulas that the Jews consider protector of the ghetto and that popular culture sees instead clumsy protagonist of daring events. From the point of view of craftsmanship, the most important productions concern the processing of linen and hemp, the art of embroidery, the decoration of tools, costumes, furniture, musical instruments; the production of wooden toys and votive statuettes; the making of hats, shawls and other accessories related to traditional clothing. § As far as gastronomic traditions are concerned, Czech cuisine is decidedly Central European, with an abundance of meat, especially pork, which is served in all forms. The cuisine of freshwater fish and game is typical in some areas. National dish are the knedlíky, dumplings of bread, semolina or potatoes, served both with meat and with fruit in the role of dessert. The national drink is beer (pivo), of which the Czechs are among the largest consumers in the world.