Written by Lubos Dolezal
Learn more about Czech Saint’s Day Festival
“Hody“ is translated as a festival, and a term closely related – “hostina“ as a feast. “Posviceni” means exactly the same as “posveceni” which is translated as consecration. In Moravia, a “hody“ and “posviceni“ means the same, but in the rest of The Czech Republic is it perceived differently.
“Posviceni” originally meant the day of the consecration of a newly built church. The origin of this tradition comes from Judaism when King Solomon held annual feasts to celebrate the consecration of his temple in Jerusalem. This indicates that this tradition was mainly celebrated by religious people. In the 18th century, Emperor Joseph II saw everyone commemorating this day every year and it was apparently of great importance to them. There was one problem being that every county celebrated this saint’s day on a different date. So the emperor set the celebration’s day to be on the 3rd Sunday of October, right after the name day of Saint Havel – this is where the most common name comes from – St. Havel’s Posviceni (Svatohavelske)
The tradition remains today except for the consecration of a new church which is not as strict as before. The celebration does not differ very much in the regions of the Czech Republic. Common meals such as typical Czech pies and cakes (kolace), roasted geese and ducks and usually local specialties are served as well. In pagan times, a rooster or a ram was slain in the sight of the Gods, this tradition was abandoned as it was not regarded as Christian.
There is one specialty that makes the Southern Bohemia region, where I come from, different. We make “hnetynky”. If you ask any person from any other region, they would not know what that is. “Hnetynky” are made from a special kneaded dough, very dry and fragile to work with, this dough is baked in an oven in a flower-ish shape and let cooled down. Then chocolate and some candies are put on it as well as jelly. The result is very tasty and colorful. This is the only special meal that is made for Posviceni. In other regions, it differs a bit and is very similar to other festival /feast days.
Festival and feasts come hand in hand. It may be described as a minor American Thanksgiving Day. However, Czechs do not have turkey but a goose. The most known “feast day“ takes place on the nearest Sunday to St.Martin’s name day. This Sunday is surprisingly celebrated more that St.Havel’s day. Roast goose with sauerkraut and potato dumplings is served especially in Moravia, and folk costume parades are held. Young men go from house to house, they ride a carriage and there is folk music. From a point of view of a Southern-bohemian, we do not do this, no parades here. It is very different here in the south as, even by the Czechs, the Southern region is regarded as a kind of barbaric, mainly because the region does not have a lot of customs that remained after World War II.