Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day! Šťastný Valentýna!

Valentine's Day wasn't always celebrated in the Czech Republic.  Before 1989, Valentine's Day was non-existent in then Czechoslovakia.  Even a mere decade ago it wasn't as popular as it is today, but alas, times have changed, and now you see signs of Valentine's Day everywhere you go.  Some Czechs still see it as a commercial holiday, used to urge people to spend more money, but others have embraced its spirit.  It's hard not to finally accept Valentine's Day when businesses have been pushing it to boost their revenue, but don't think the Czechs aren't romantic...

Czechs have their own version of Valentine's Day, and that day is May 1st...A Day for Lovers.  On the first of May, lovers are supposed to kiss under a blossoming cherry tree to ensure a year of good health and good luck.  Hmmm...I like the sound of this and think I'm going to bring A Day for Lovers to Brooklyn!  Imagine a kiss under all of those blossoming cherry trees at the Brooklyn Botantical Garden...or in DC when the blossoms are in full bloom.  I think we should all mark our calendars for May 1st, locate the nearest cherry Blossom, and kiss our beloved under a canopy of pink and white! 

Sorry, didn't mean to go off on a tangent, but it just sounds so romantic!  So, back to May 1st...there's another tradition associated with A Day for Lovers, and that is to meet at the statue of Karel Hynek Mácha.  Why?  Mácha was a Czech romantic poet, and today he stands on Petřín Hill.  Couples who kiss in front of his statue believe that their love will be as strong as the stone his statue is made from. 

Karel Hynek Mácha is best known for his lyrical epic poem, Máj (which is about May 1st and speaks of the tragic love of two young people).  Máj is "regarded as the classic work of Czech Romanticism, and is considered one of the best Czech poems ever written."  It's quite beautiful and you can read the translated version of it here