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Lesson Transcript

Martin: Hi everyone, I’m Martin!
Gabriella: And I’m Gabriella, and welcome back to CzechClass101.com. This is All About, Lesson 9: The Top 5 Important Dates During the Czech Calendar Year. It must be difficult to choose these dates from all the ones available, right?

Lesson focus

Martin: You’re right, but I’ll only talk about the days that are widely celebrated.
Gabriella: Ok, let’s introduce them in ascending order of importance.
Martin: All right. Save the best for last!
Gabriella: Let’s start with number 5...
Martin: That is the late-autumn national holiday
Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day
Gabriella: It’s held on November 17, and this day represents two important events for the Czech people.
Martin: The first event in 1939 was an invasion by the Nazis of Czechoslovakia that was then declared the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.
Gabriella: I see. What is the other event?
Martin: The second important event was November 17, 1989, when students in Prague started protesting against the communist regime. Their protest was violently suppressed by police in the streets. This day was the beginning of the so-called Velvet Revolution, which led to the end of communism in Czechoslovakia.
Gabriella: The name ‘’Velvet Revolution’’ was created by journalists, and reflects the peaceful nature of the protest that did not involve any violence from the students’ side, but was based on mutual dialogue.
Martin: The most significant person of the whole revolution was the future president Václav Havel.
Gabriella: This day is a national holiday, and people commemorate these events by lighting candles and placing flowers in the streets where the protests took place, right?
Martin: That’s right.
Gabriella: Okay, let’s move onto number 4…
Martin: The Independent Czechoslovak State Day celebrated on October 28.
Gabriella: On this day, the Czechoslovak State declared its independence on 28th October 1918, at the end of the First World War. The state was one of the successors of the collapsed Habsburg Empire, also known as the Austro-Hungarian Empire or Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, with Czechoslovakia being one of its territories.
Martin: Thanks to the first Czech president Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, who worked on the formation of the state and its independence, Czechoslovakia was later recognised and declared an independent state.
Gabriella: The official title Czechoslovakia lasted until 1989 when Czech and Slovak split into two separated states. So what do people do on this day?
Martin: October 28 is a national holiday, and people who did something special during the year are officially awarded by the President. For example, in 2012 the Czech Professor Ladislav Bařinka, who is now 85, and one of the top plastic and reconstructive surgeons, received a medal for his work, and his development of new surgical methods, operational procedures and patents.
Gabriella: He’s worked in the US, Great Britain, Austria and Syria, as well as the Czech Republic of course. Prof. Bařinka authored a large scientific project and is an outstanding professor, who has mentored three generations of plastic surgeons. Now let’s move onto number 3 … Liberation Day.
Martin: This takes place on May 8th, which is a day connected with one of the most important historical events in the Czech Republic, as well as Europe. It was 8th May 1945, when Germany surrendered to the pressure of the Soviet Red Army, and brought an end to WW2. Although in some parts of the world the war continued, Prague was liberated on the morning of May 9.
Gabriella: As you can imagine, this is a big day! It’s a national holiday in the Czech Republic, and people commemorate the day by putting flowers on the memorials of the fallen victims. The President and other representatives of the government officially pay their respects, and it’s usually broadcast live.
Martin: Ok, let’s move on to number 2 now…The national holiday of Easter and Easter Monday, called “Velikonoce”.
Gabriella: Yes, Easter is one of the most important Christian holidays of the year. Historically, this tradition is a celebration of spring and the rebirth of Jesus. In the Czech calendar, Easter does not have a fixed date, but the date changes each year according to the calculations of the ‘’big night’’ when Jesus was revived.
Martin: Yes. For Czech people, Easter means a few days’ holiday, and if the date happens to be just after the weekend, they can get as much as 4-5 days off.
Gabriella: Nearly all offices, local shops and other business are closed and public transport operates on a Sunday timetable.
Martin: People spend this time with their families and in preparation for Easter Monday, which has been linked to many traditional activities.
Gabriella: One of the typical ones is that boys make whips from willow sticks, and the girls paint Easter Eggs. The Easter eggs, a symbol of fertility and health, are then given to the boys when they come to the house to (symbolically) whip the girls whilst carol-singing. According to the tradition, the boys lightly whip girls so that they don’t ‘’dry out’’ and stay healthy for the next year.
Martin: {laughs} That’s right! The traditionally hand-painted decorated eggs have recently been replaced with chocolate eggs or other sweets. At home, people eat Velikonoční beránek or Easter Ram, a baked spongecake in the shape of a ram, or Vánočka, a homemade sweet bread with almonds and raisins.
Gabriella: Alright. Now the last day, the most important day...Number 1 is...
Martin: Christmas Eve and new year, called Vánoce a Nový rok. As you know, Christmas Eve is celebrated on the evening of December 24, and the New Year on December 31.
Gabriella: So it’s not like in some other countries, where Christmas is celebrated on the morning of the 25th?
Martin: No, the morning of December 25 is just a day off for Czech people. The main celebration takes place the night before. Christmas Eve is a very merry day, especially for children, who look forward to the arrival of Ježíšek - this character has the same looks and function as Santa Claus - and the presents they will be given. Traditionally, families visit each other, and in the evening older children decorate a Christmas tree.
Gabriella: What are some typical activities that people take part in during Christmas?
Martin: One of the customs on Christmas day is to have a fasting lunch without meat.
Gabriella: Interesting - before we continue, it’s important to clarify what fasting in the Czech Republic means. Fasting is an act of willing abstinence from or reduction of certain or all foods, drinks, or both, for a period of time. An absolute fast is normally abstaining from all food and liquid for a defined period, usually a single day (24 hours), or several days. Other fasts may be only partially restrictive, limiting particular foods or substances. In the Czech Republic, the original custom is to have no meat all day until the evening. People can eat other types of food throughout the day by the way, just not meat.
Martin: So they have something like a vegetarian lunch?
Gabriella: Yes, that’s right!
Martin: And a traditional Christmas lunch dish is made from mushrooms or Houbový Kuba, or mushrooms with peeled grains of barley Muzika. In the evening, the whole family gathers by the dinner table to eat a traditional carp meal with chilled potato salad. Some families replace carp with other types of fish, or chicken cutlets. Throughout the whole of Christmas, people like to eat sweet treats such as home-made cookies. After the meal, children expect Ježíšek to bring them presents.
Gabriella: It sounds nice! What about the New year celebration?
Martin: New Year is a holiday and celebration of the new year’s beginning. Czech people call the day Silvestr, and the celebration starts on the evening of December 31. Usually the celebrations go on until the early hours of the next day. Nowadays it is less common for people to send traditional Christmas card wishes as those have been replaced by mobile messages and emails. The substance of the new year messages, however, remains the same. It’s to wish people happiness and good health in the following year. Some people make new year’s resolutions too.
Gabriella: Ok, so Christmas time and New Year’s eve are another great occasion to visit the Czech Republic.
Martin: Absolutely! There are many things going on in the streets at this time. We have beautiful Christmas markets in Prague and other cities, and at New Year’s people come out to celebrate, waiting for midnight to watch the fireworks organised by most cities and to wish each other all the best in the following year. After midnight, young people especially tend to go to music clubs, local bars or other pubs to continue the joyful night until the early hours. The next day is a national holiday.
Gabriella: Wow! Czechs sure know how to throw a good party!
Martin: Exactly! We really enjoy Czech Christmas time.
Gabriella: And with that, I think we've covered the five most important holidays in the Czech Republic. We hope you have the chance to visit the Czech Republic during one of these holidays so that you can experience it for yourself! In the meantime, please check the lesson notes and join us next time for more information on the Czech Republic and Czech language!


Gabriella: Thank you for listening everyone. See you next time!
Martin: Ahoj!


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CzechClass101.com Verified
Tuesday at 06:30 PM
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Do you know any other Czech Holiday? Share it with us!

Hanka Kawakami Stibingerova
Monday at 12:22 AM
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Dear Dominic,

thank you for your comment on the two topics.

Although it may seem to you very straight forward as for the image of Ježíšek, it's actually more complex to many Czech people. I will explain to you since I'm a Czech citizen and I grew up in the Czech Republic.

Although most people have the name of Ježíšek surely connected with the image of Jesus baby born, and thus Christmas nativity is depicted, it is not so straight forward when it comes to Ježíšek and the image of him delivering presents and Christmas tree to children. In fact, people do not really hold the image of this little baby Jesus delivering presents. Children also believe (unless parents decide to divert from the tradition) that even the Christmas tree is brought in by Ježíšek. Therefore, the image of a small baby bringing all this is not quite possible. In fact, for may Czech people, the function of Ježíšek is the same as Santa Claus. Thus the comparison to him in terms of function. And sometimes even in terms of the image for some it is rather unclear because there is no particular description of what Ježíšek actually looks like. If you ask Czech children to draw a picture of Ježíšek, you will get a mixture of Santa Claus looking-like character (in fact very similar to Mikulas), or a baby born Jesus in a cradle. But the image of who delivers presents, is not clear to anybody. No child has ever seen Ježíšek bringing the presents, thus it is up to the imaginary mind of the child. Some picture it as a small angel, some as Santa, some as baby Jesus. Nevertheless, these lessons are designed for students from other countries and we need to give them some comparison and the function of Ježíšek is the same as Santa Claus.

As for the Easter. Yes, it is mentioned in the lesson that the date is not fixed. The entire Easter period lasts 50 days, in fact. Out of this, the most important is one week period. In this one week period, starting from Blue Monday. The weekend, of which you are talking about, there is the importance of Sunday in terms of the feast (called Boží hod velikonoční), however, much more important is the so called Easter Monday because it is the day of doing traditional crafts, such as making whipping willow sticks, painting eggs, baking Easter ram cake, carol singing, girls giving eggs to boys, boys coming to their house to symbolically whip them in order for them ''not to dry''. This is why the Easter Monday is mentioned in this lesson. The focus is the fife most important dates.



team CzechClass101.com

Thursday at 03:30 AM
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There are two major mistakes in this lesson:

1. Ježíšek (Christ child) is definitely not the same as Santa Claus

2. The date of Easter is not fixed, but it's always on a weekend