Why Do Czech People Kiss on May 1st – Labor Day?

1st of May is just another very welcome day off work for many. Labor day (Czech: Svátek práce, První máj) is nowadays celebrated in the Czech Republic by… a kiss! Sounds strange? Find out more!

First day of May is worldwide celebrated as International Workers’ Day or Labor Day in commemoration of various historic achievements of Labor Movement. The origin of Labor Day Celebration dates back to May 4, 1886 when American workers walked out in Chicago. The strikers were demanding an 8-hour working time.

Love or Labor?

In the days before Velvet Revolution, Czechs were as good as forced to take part in massive socialist May Day parades, and not surprisingly nowadays most prefer to treat the day as a celebration of love. May as a month of love has a long time tradition in the Czech history, longer than communism.

In Prague, a “must-do” of this day is kissing under the blooming cherry trees of Petřín hill. The origin of May kissing is connected to a poem of Karel Hynek Mácha who is considered a poet of all lovers. It is Mácha’s sculpture in Prague Petřín where, in May, lovers spend some pleasant time together, high above the city.

Poem May by Karel Hynek Mácha

Late evening, on the first of May—

The twilit May—the time of love.

You can find the whole poem here.

Maypole, a tall tree is raised for 1 May and then stands for the whole month.

Ancient legends say that a girl who is not kissed on this day would wither and die in twelve months. In countryside, there are village balls and people erect decorated maypoles while students in cities organize Majáles, a celebration of students’ life.

The labor day is on Monday this year and it is officially recognized as a public holiday in the Czech Republic.

Liberation Day – 8th of May

Just a week after, there is another public holiday which brings us three-days weekend – Liberation Day (Czech: Den osvobození). This day marks the end of the Second World War in Europe.

Prague was liberated in the morning May 8, 1945 by the Soviet Red Army. Nowadays, the Czech president, political representatives, and WWII veterans commemorate the liberation by placing flower wreaths at memorials of the victims of war.

Make sure to do all necessary groceries before. These days smaller shops, large stores, and shopping centers are closed. Offices and other institutions, such as banks and post offices, are also shut.

We wish you wonderful holiday time!

Public Holidays in the Czech Republic

  • January 1st – Restoration Day of the Independent Czech State, New Year’s Day
  • Good Friday (dates vary every year)
  • Easter Monday (dates vary every year)
  • May 1st – Labor Day
  • May 8th – Liberation Day
  • July 5th – Saints Cyril and Methodius Day
  • July 6th – Jan Hus Day
  • September 28th – St. Wenceslas Day (Czech Statehood Day)
  • October 28th – Independent Czechoslovak State Day
  • November 17th – Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day
  • December 24th – Christmas Eve
  • December 25th – Christmas Day
  • December 26th – St. Stephen’s Day

Written by Urszula Turowska

Sources:
Bridge Publishing House, 2011. The Mystery of Czech Public Holidays, January- February. At: http://www.bridge-online.cz. Verified: 26.04.2017.
Czech.cz, 2017: May 1st – Day For Love. At: http://www.czech.cz/en/103913-may-1st-day-for-love. 
Verified: 27.04.2017.
Czech Tourism, 2017. Days Off. At: http://www.czechtourism.com/a/days-off/. Verified: 26.04.2017.
Title Picture: Pixabay.com

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