May Day in Czech Republic


May Day brings romance & opens beer gardens

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

May Day is not only known for the International Worker’s Day to commemorate the Haymarket Affair in Chicago, but it is also a Northern Hemisphere spring festival.

It was an official holiday in former Czechoslovakia, complete with parades. But, most importantly, it was and it is a celebration of spring called Majales accompanied by the opening of the beer gardens. Majales are dances around May poles decorated with ribbons.

May Day pole tied with ribbons signifies love and spring.
May Day pole tied with ribbons signifies love and spring.

The first day of May is known as the day of love immortalized by many artists, poets and writers. It was mainly the work of Czech poet Karel Hynek Macha who attached love to this day and the entire month with his poem May.

Karel Hynek Macha, Czech poet
Karel Hynek Macha, Czech poet

Here are the first few verses from the poem translated by Edith Pargeter:

Late evening, on the first of May—
The twilit May—the time of love.
Meltingly called the turtle-dove,
Where rich and sweet pinewoods lay.
Whispered of love the mosses frail,
The flowering tree as sweetly lied,
The rose’s fragrant sigh replied
To love-songs of the nightingale.
In shadowy woods the burnished lake
Darkly complained a secret pain,
By circling shores embraced again;
And heaven’s clear sun leaned down to take
A road astray in azure deeps,
Like burning tears the lover weeps.

A haze of stars in heaven hovers—
That church of endless love’s communion—
Each jewel blanches and recovers
As blanch and burn long-parted lovers
In the high rapture of reunion.
How clear, to her full beauty grown,
How pale, how clear, the moon above,
Like maiden seeking for her love,
A rosy halo round her thrown!
Her mirrored image she espied,
And of self-love, beholding, died.
Forth from the farms pale shadows strayed,
Lengthening longing to their kind,
Till they embraced, and close entwined,
Coiled low into the lap of shade,
Grown all one twilight unity.
Tree in the shadows writhes to tree.
In the far mountains’ dark confine
Pine leans to birch and birch to pine.
Wave baunting wave the streamlets move.
For love’s sake—in the time of love—
Anguished goes every living thing.

The poem takes place  by Doksy and the castles of Bezdez, Pernstejn, Holska and Ralsko point toward east and west, noon and midnight.

Castle Pernstejn the setting for the poem May.
Castle Pernstejn the setting for the poem May.

Czech parks and castles invite to romance many designed in classical English style with strict hedges and groves.

 

A castle park in Vizovice where a big part of my book takes place.
A castle park in Vizovice where a big part of my book takes place.

 

 

 

 

Typical flowers for May are lilacs. Some have grown into trees and have been cross-bred into different colors. Some Czech customs have carried over to the USA. In the photo below, Americans of Czech heritage are dancing around a May pole easily recognized by the ribbons.

May Day pole with ribbons in Bannister, Michigan
May Day pole with ribbons in Bannister, Michigan

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright (c) 2015 Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

 

 

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