Written by Jan Skapa
The tradition of Majales is documented since the heyday of universities in the fifteenth century. Even then the custom of tolerating student recessions, even provocative ones, was well established. Some authors trace the origin of the celebration in the Czech lands to the environment of high school students in the 18th century. On the day of the school holidays for the night of Philopojakuba (April 30), the students left for the spring landscape, where they would celebrate joy by singing.
Despite the ban, the 1847 Majales at the Litomysl Gymnasium is one of the main events in Jirasek’s 1878 novel Philosophical History. In the nationally exacerbated second half of the 19th century, Majales, according to Jirasek’s interpretation, became a free thinking, clerical and patriotic anti-vacation which university students appropriated. The Majales were mainly characterized by parades of differently dressed students through the city and the election of the King of the Majales.
Each year’s a series of Majaleses takes place in many cities throughout the Czech Republic. We went to the one that took place in the city of Brno, the capital of Moravia. In Brno dwell around 80.000 students who are studying at a number of major universities (to name just a few: Masaryk University, Brno University of Technology, Mendel University, etc.). It is an old city with its history connected to Vienna and old Austrian empire. This can still be felt in Brno – but when students celebrate, it’s all put aside.
Majales is always a very big event. In Brno it takes place on the exhibition grounds where usually around 20.000 people gather. This year was no exception – even tough rain poured down heavily, people came; they drank beer, had fun and listened to some of the major Czech bands and musicians (Tomas Klus, Krystof, and many, many others).
It was an event worth visiting. Even though Majales became much bigger and is no longer a small student celebration as it used to be during the First Czech Republic, it still has its charm and it offers a ton of fun to its visitors.
For more information about Brno Majales, click here.
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