Czech Funfairs and Pilgrimages
Written by Karolina Loffelmannova
Learn more about Czech Funfairs and Pilgrimages
Every village has its own patron saint to whom the church in the town/village is consecrated to and each patron has his/her particular feast day every year. This special day is the exact day of fairs usually it is celebrated on the weekend. All family members come back to their parents or grandparents to celebrate with them, bringing their children of all ages so that they can enjoy the carnival with a small carousel, shooting gallery with toys, autodrome, swings, and seesaws and buying some treats like caramelized almonds, gingerbread of all shapes with a short message on it (“Pro maminku” – To mom, “Miluji te” – I love you, “Z Lasky” – Out of love. At home or cottage, there is a typical great Sunday Czech meal for lunch as the main meal of a day with a sweet pastry as a dessert.
And where does the tradition come from? What is the origin?
In Czech, the word “pouť” has two meanings, both connected with this tradition. The first means a pilgrimage’ to a saint’s shrine or sacred place. The other one is the present day translation as a fair or festival.
The Christian pilgrimages were visits to sacred places. It is a great time for the whole village as it is considered a feast. People wear their traditional folk costumes and sing religious songs. Religious pilgrimages are from the Middle Ages when people visited sacred holy places, pilgrims prayed for the family, health, harvest, and prosperity.
In the countryside, there were pilgrimages on special Sundays called “poutni nedele” families both young and old participated. It took several days for some pilgrims to reach the shrine. There are at least 200 sacred places in the Czech Republic. The most well known and visited are Velehrad, Svata Hora, Stara Boleslav, Ríp, Svata Kopec and others. Some of the pilgrimage traditions are held in many villages, towns, and cities today.
Pilgrimages are connected with celebrations of the patron Saint and church. The Czech people lost their religion due to the pressure of the political system during and after WWII. The political regime at that time transformed “pilgrim fairs” to “fairs” only as religion was not accepted by the regime. Today the religious significance has diminished so the fair or festival celebration has more of a secular feeling.
Posviceni a Hody
Posviceni in the Morava region is called a Hody. It is an old annual tradition of the Czech Republic. It is one of the favorite holidays for Czech villagers. It is held in the autumn after the fieldwork has ended, it symbolized the gratitude for the harvest and welcoming the time of relaxing. It can be celebrated from Saturday to Tuesday or to Thursday morning. Sometimes celebrated from Sunday to Sunday. In that case, it was called “od stareho posviceni, do mladeho posviceni” from the old posviceni to the young posviceni. The whole family meet and sit together at the richly laid tables. It is considered the more guests the greater homage to the hostess. In the Morava region, the entire holiday is organized by the so-called starek a stáaka, older man, and woman, or mladek a mladkova young man and women. According to legend, the first Posviceni was celebrated by King Solomon at the time when his first Temple was blessed in Jerusalem. Every year on the same day he would invite guests to honor the consecration of the temple.