Czechs celebrate ‘Čarodějnice’ – an annual witch-burning festival
April 30 is ‘Čarodějnice’ in the Czech Republic, the day that winter is ceremonially brought to an end. How? By the burning of rag and straw witches on bonfires around the country. The festival offers Czechs the chance to eat, drink and be merry around a roaring fire, and for some, there’s even the chance to dress up.
A lot of those present were dressed as witches and ghouls. I asked organizer Monika Babišová if Čarodějnice was something like Halloween back in Britain:
People cooking sausages over an open fire, and washing them down, age depending, with fizzy drinks or beer.
There was an impressive turn-out at Wednesday’s witch-burning fest, but organizer Monika Babišová insists that Čarodějnice is a tradition that’s disappearing fast:
“It is to make people into witches. We are trying to break the record for the highest number of witches gathered in one place. We need around 750 witches to break the record.”
And what qualifies you to be a witch, what do you have to do to be registered as a witch here?
“You need this stick, and this cape.”
I was maybe a little too old to take part in the record attempt, but enough of my younger counterparts did, and a new Czech record was set. Some 934 witches turned out at Ladronka in the end, which made for quite a devilish sight. With the festivities at Ladronka only forming one small fraction of the Čarodějnice celebrations taking place around the country, this age-old Czech tradition of witch-burning looks to be far from fizzling out.