Sunday, April 30, 2006

Beltane in Prague?

Beltane is almost here; I gather that it is in two days. In the grand tradition that every holiday must be celebrated on a weekend no matter when it actually occurs (this operates in the Czech Republic as well as in North America), fires were lit tonight on the Kampa and presumably elsewhere.
Why is Beltane (an ancient Celtic holiday not generally celebrated much of anywhere that I am aware of) celebrated in Prague in 2006?
As far as I can ascertain, it can only be because the Czechs have decided that they are Celts rather than Slavs. This will astonish anyone who has not been to the Czech Republic in recent years, but the Czechs have embraced their Celtic roots passionately of late. Once upon a time, Celtic tribes lived pretty much all over Europe, building hill forts and leaving various interesting archaeological tidbits. The Slavs came along rather later. Now, for reasons not entirely clear to me, the Czechs have decided that they are really Celts who happen to speak a Slavic language. (Forgive this gross simplification and generalization.) They adore anything relating to Celts anywhere, but especially in the Czech lands. They have folk groups that combine Moravian and Celtic music, they like to think of themselves as a small persecuted nation akin to the Irish, and they love to run news items about Czech archaeologists working on Celtic sites. Some people suggest that this is yet another way to distinguish themselves from the Slovaks, while others simply figure that the Celts are interesting, so why shouldn’t the Czechs like them.
My personal opinion is that it’s an interesting cultural development. I find it a bit humorous, but I find Celtic music and legend pretty appealing myself, so I am in no position to criticize.
So, when Alex called and said that she and Kelly and Nathan had planted themselves by the third fire north of Most Legii, I thought I might as well abandon the spring photos I was preparing to post, and run off to see.
Never having attended a Beltane celebration before, I was unsure what to expect, but this one seemed rather tame and the fire seemed surrounded by English-speakers. It was a little like a beach bonfire, except that the local police were gazing mesmerized into the flames too. We quickly grew bored and went to Dobrá Trafika for grog, and became deeply engrossed in playing a game of Pick Up Sticks, as all of us pretty much remembered the rules from childhood.

Note: For those reading this without the comments, April 30 was indeed Beltane so we celebrated on the correct day.

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Blogger random.thoughts said...

for once here the May day holiday actually falls on 1st May (it's always the 1st Monday in May). There have long been campaigns in the UK to celebrate May 1st regardless of what day of the week it falls on, but with no success!

May 01, 2006 1:02 AM  
Blogger Karla said...

I am impressed that there are countries that have May first as an official holiday (it is one here too). The United States, not wishing to encourage the workers, doesn't celebrate it. Admittedly, we have Labor Day at the end of the summer... Not quite the same thing though.

May 01, 2006 9:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beltane is April 30th, not May 2nd as I had thought. I'd be interested in seeing the connection between the witch-burning holiday of the present day and the ancient Celtic fertility rite of Beltane. -Kelly

May 01, 2006 10:03 AM  
Blogger Kristen said...

Interesting. So, then, are they knitting aran sweaters like mad?

May 01, 2006 10:00 PM  
Blogger Karla said...

I have not yet seen a proliferation of Aran sweaters. But then, I don't think the resurgence in knitting has really hit the Czech Republic. I think younger women are still regarding it as something one once did to economize. (Though I could be wrong on this; there are some yarn shops opening.)

May 02, 2006 10:09 AM  

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