Today, 28th September, is the day of Czech statehood, when Czechs celebrate the name day of the patron of the Czech Lands, St. Wenceslas.
If you are familiar with Prague already, you probably heard his name at some point. The biggest square in Prague is named after this guy, the Wenceslas square. And on the top of this square you can find a statue of this famous Czech duke riding his horse. The statue is a popular meeting place for Prague inhabitants. In Czech we say: “Sejdeme se pod ocasem.” = “Let’s meet under the tail.“ And there is really no need to specify which tail. Wenceslas (Václav) is also a popular first name. It is an old name of Slavic origin, which meant “more famous” back in the day. The most important Czech person with this name is, of course, St. Wenceslas (svatý Václav), but also two of Czech Presidents were called Václav – Václav Havel and Václav Klaus.
So who was this duke? Duke of Bohemia, Wenceslas lived in 10th century and came from well the know dynasty of Přemyslid. On 28th September 935 he was murdered on the order of his brother Boleslav, on a doorstep to a church, in small city near Prague called Stará Boleslav (Old Boleslav). His brother then succeeded him as the Duke of Bohemia. He has the reputation of heroic goodness for which he was awarded by sainthood. He was also declared a king and the patron saint of the Czech state. Saint Wenceslas not only overlooks the wellbeing of the Czech people from above, but he is also said to “sleep” with his army in the hill Blaník. His knights and under his leadership are destined to awake to help the Czech people, when they face gravest danger.
What do people do on this day? Well, many just enjoy the day off at their cottages by picking apples and preparing the garden for a winter, or being lazy at home. But there are people and this year it was a couple hundred, who go for a traditional pilgrimage to Stará Boleslav. A unique part of the religious celebration there is the display and procession of relics of St. Wenceslas, which are normally housed in his chapel in St. Vitus Cathedral. There are of course, also concerts, food, beer, dancing and a program for kids. The celebration in Stará Boleslav is the most well-known one, but many other events are taking place across the republic.
So next time you will hear the song, “the good king Wenceslas” – think about the Czech Republic and our patron!
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