Burning of witches and maypole building

30.4. - 1.5. 2024

Holasovice, much like other villages and towns in Czechia,celebrates the traditional spring holiday by burning witches and erecting a maypole. These pagan traditions depict fertility and arrival of spring. The burning of the witches is also known as ¨Filipojakubska noc¨ and this celebration always falls on the last night of April and the first day of May. It is believed that burning witches grants the village protection from evil and evil spirits. By erecting a Maypole – a tall bare tree trunk decorated with colourful ribbons and flowers – people honor the nature and celebrate its awakening.

The Maypole tradition:

The erecting of Maypole is a Czech tradition related to spring festival. The Maypole symbolizes love, fertility and youth, but also serves as a guardian of the village.

How to built a Maypole:

1: Select a tree:

  • The last day of April, men of the village venture into the forest and cut down the tallest tree

  • The tree must be coniferous, preferably a spruce

2. Preparation:

  • The bark is peeled off and the bottom branches removed

3. Decoration

  • Village maidens decorate the top brances that were left intact with ribbons and strips of crepe paper

  • Decorated wreath is hung beneath the top of the maypole. This wreath symbolises virginity of young women of the village

4.Night watch

  • Young men must stand guard overnight, because the boys from the neighbouring villages will come and try to cut the maypole down – to gain the ¨victory¨

  • It‘s humiliating if men cannot protect their maypole overnight

Holasovice is a village known for its complete and well-preserved vernacular buildings fashioned in a style of South Bohemian folk Baroque, and inscribed on the World Herritage List. One of the objectives of the spring festival celebration in Holasovice is to preserve local traditions, customs and the culture of this region.

Festivities include:

Erecting the Maypole: Young men gather and together they erect the Maypole. The maypole is usually very tall and very heavy and to position it properly requires great strenght and team effort.

Burning of witches: A large bonfire is lit at the village green at dusk. An effigy of a witch made of straw and old clothes is thrown or placed atop this bonfire. It is a symbolic representation of a new life and the act should also help ward off evil.

Refreshments: Sausages are grilled over the open flame of the bonfire accompanied by beverages, such as beer.

The significance of these traditions:

Although the traditional spring celebrations bring fun and joy to all the participants, the traditions hold a deeper meaning too – cultural and historical. They provide an opportunity for the locals to meet, pass on knowledge, oral history and shared heritage. Most importantly, they help to reinforce the sense of belonging.

Here, in Holasovice, we use this holiday to show our respect for traditions and local customs, to think about our past and how it helps to shape our present and to try and live in harmony with nature.

If you need further information about this event, please do not hesitate to contact our Tourist Information Centre