By: Nicole Klement and Pavla Horakova
All this week Czechs have been visiting cemeteries across the country, lighting candles and laying flowers on the graves of their loved ones. Today - Friday November 2nd - is All Souls' Day, which the Czechs call Dusicky, and others call the Day of the Dead. The Czechs may be the most agnostic nation in Europe, but All Souls' Day has always been observed with almost religious fervour. Radio Prague's Nicole Klement visited Olsanske Cemetery, the largest cemetery in Prague, to experience the atmosphere of Dusicky.
All Souls Day is a Catholic festival, but it seems that the Czech people have celebrated Dusicky since pagan times. Many centuries ago it was believed that on one night a year the dead walked the earth with the living, and so to calm their family ghosts, people set aside this day to pay tribute to them. Today, Czechs still place candles and wreaths on their relatives' graves, so I took a number 11 tram to Prague's sprawling Olsanske cemetery.
Walking through the grounds at dusk, surrounded by families, I noticed thousands of flickering candles lighting the gravestones of relatives long departed. Families clutching flowers, wreaths and candles, were there to pay their respects and to remember their friends and family. Walking among the autumn leaves heaped in piles along the paths, the atmosphere in the cemetery was strangely calming.
"I'd say there was a unique energy, because there was this sense for the dead, for your history and for your loved ones."
Walking around, people spoke of their relatives and the tradition of Dusicky....
"I am here to visit my family's grave. I come every year, usually at the end of October of the start of November. I have here, my grandfather and grandmother, all relatives from my mother's family, in this cemetery. Dusicky is a day in the year where we all remember our relatives."
Most Czechs said they embarked on the annual Dusicky pilgrimage to family gravesites to rekindle memories of loved ones now deceased..
"Every year we celebrate Dusicky, which means that we remember all our ancestors. For all or lives they remain in our memories. The 1st and 2nd of November we decorate our ancestor's graves with flowers, wreaths and we deeply think of our memories of them. We remember all the beautiful times that we had together."
A woman visiting her family's grave on the eve of All Soul's day ended that report by Nicole Klement.