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Customs and traditions


May 1st – Day For Love

photo:  (sxc.hu)

In the Czech Republic, if you are invited for an appointment on May 1st, you can expect the usual work or social meeting. However, if you are asked to spend May 1st with them, you can expect much more. In the Czech Republic, May 1st is a celebration of love.

Perhaps every Czech is able to recite at least a couple of verses from Máj (May), a famous poem written by the romantic poet Karel Hynek Mácha. It is Mácha’s sculpture in Prague Petřín (map) where, on May 1st (or on another day of May), lovers would come with flowers to spend some pleasant time on top of the mountain, high above the city.

The celebration of May has been a Czech tradition for centuries. There is a widely spread custom of kissing your love under a blooming cherry tree or birch. Legend says that a girl who is not kissed would wither and die in twelve months. There are village balls and villagers erect maypoles, while students in cities organise Majáles (a celebration of student life).

Erecting maypoles

On the evening before May 1st, single males go into the woods to cut down a tall tree. They keep the tree top and remove the branches. The trunk is then decorated with a wreath, scarves, ribbons and flowers. The Maypole is erected in the village square and guarded over night. A group of the men visit neighbouring villages, in secret, to steal their maypoles. It is kind of a competition, and the aim is to steal as many maypoles as possible. On the first Sunday of May, the villagers who did not allow their maypole to be stolen can go around the village visiting houses where unmarried girls live, and they are given little presents. In the evening they all celebrate May at the ball.


Majáles or the student celebration, honouring the spring, love and student life, has been celebrated in the CR since the 19th century. It is connected with student parades. Students get together, wearing funny clothes, and vote for the King of Majáles. In 1965, the King was Allen Ginsberg, the famous poet of the Beatnik Generation. Majáles today is usually a great music festival connected with fun and competitions to present the students’ skills and competence.

Author: Andrea Kábelová
Added: 26.04.2011

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