Dancing With Witches: A Story In Photos

I’m not really a Halloween person, but that’s only because I like to wear costumes on regular days.

I require only the slightest excuse to dress up.

Pálení čarodějnic (burning of the witches)—celebrated on April 30 in the Czech Republic (or is it Czechia now (?!), I’m still not sure)—is one of my favorite occasions to don a silly hat and outrageous attitude. On Witches’ Night, the Czech population celebrates the official end of winter by lighting bonfires, drinking beer, eating sausages, and burning witches in effigy. (More here). This year, I was invited to dance in a drum circle with the other witches!

Once upon a time…

… April 14, 2017, in fact, Dave and I moved from Vermont to Prague. We chose that date specifically so we would be settled into our new home in time for Witches’ Night on April 30 and my 49th birthday on May 1. As you can see, we did it!

That’s me with my new friends Stephany (L, visiting from Berlin) and Bethany (C, with perfect cheekbones). My truly fabulous, totally authentic, maybe-gave-me-dark-powers hat is from Karneval Ptákoviny on Křižovnická Street. (Obtaining the hat was an adventure of its own. We had to press a button on the front of the building to be buzzed in, then followed the signs down twisting stairs to the basement shop. It’s packed, floor to ceiling, with rainbow-colored wigs, board games, edible candy bra tops, bunny ears, silly sunglasses, rubber severed limbs, jelly eyeballs, fake mustaches, monocles, feather boas, glitter, face paint, and several styles of witches’ hats. It’s clearly where all the stylish Czech witches do their shopping.)

We gathered in the square in Mala Strana for the start of the witch parade to Kampa Island. The festivities were lead by more witches, drummers, and a warlock (?!) who pulled a cart that was used to collect children along the way. We marched through Mala Strana and under the Charles Bridge to the island for the bonfire.

When we arrived at the park, all the witches gathered to dance in a big circle while the drummers drummed a relentless, irresistible beat. Then the master of ceremonies lit the bonfire (!) and we all dispersed for cold beer and sizzling sausages.

Gradually, it got dark…

And then the fire twirling started.

When we’d had our fill of drum beats, fireballs, and beer under the stars, we wandered home on the cobblestone streets. It was the perfect way to end my 48th year and look forward to what’s next. Turns out, an awesome breakfast was immediately next.

On May 1, we celebrated my birthday with breakfast at Café Amandine. I had the special brunch with merguez sausage and pommes frites and ginger tea (and cake!).

Then Dave and I spent the afternoon on Petřín Hill where, according to tradition, we kissed under the cherry blossoms for good luck. We also ate dark chocolate, watched dogs frolic, and napped a bit on our blanket.

Two things I’m loving about living in Prague are all the sitting and all the walking—in, around, to, and from beautiful places. I crushed it that week. (And on Sunday, we walked the distance of a half marathon!)

The end.

All photos taken by my brilliant husband David.

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  • Chris says:

    Hi Mel,

    I’ve enjoyed your blog and recipes for several years, and am glad you’re having a great time in Czechia. Keep the photo essays coming!