Witch-burning night, or as it is commonly named: The Burning of the Witches, is a must-see experience which takes place in the Czech Republic every year on the night between 30th April and 1st May.
This festival is a little like Bonfire Night in the UK except that the Burning of the Witches tends to be wilder and can literally last all night. This is originally a custom with pagan roots, centered around the notion that on this night witches gathered in a coven and that underground caverns and caves opened to reveal treasures. In the hope to protect themselves against evil, people built fires on hills and this slowly evolved into people 'witch-burning' by lighting pitch-covered broomsticks, thrown upwards into the air. It was said that the ashes from these fires held magical properties and would boost crops.
The festival these days is celebrated in a variety of ways.
Some people simply light a fire and sit round cooking sausages, some people tell stories around the fire, some people light an effigy of a witch (similar to the burning of a Guy Fawkes effigy in the UK). The official explanation of the festival is that girls dress up as witches and jump over the fire. Expect to see a combination of all the above on Witch-burning night.
The symbolism of this festival is similar to many May 1st festivals in the Northern Hemisphere: a celebration of the end of Winter and the beginning of Spring/Summer. The festival also brings with it the sense of purification from evil and looking forward to new beginnings.
Where to experience the festival in Prague?
Without doubt if you are in Prague this weekend then you should make your way down to Kampa Park in Prague 1 tomorrow evening for around 6pm to catch the start of the celebrations. From here the late night crowd usually make their way onto a second location (usually a second burning close to the Ujezd orchards on the hill). From there onwards until the early hours of the morning my advice is to simply just go with the flow and when the sun comes up you might find yourself in another section of the city, discussing where to grab coffee or something stronger with your new friend(s).
Hezky den!/Lovely day!