History and holidays

Throughout its long history, the territory that is now the Czech Republic has been a land of kings and empires. The Czech lands have changed hands many times throughout the centuries; today’s Czech Republic was once part of the Holy Roman Empire, the Habsburg Empire, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. After World War I, the nation-state of Czechoslovakia gained independence, though this was short-lived. The Czech lands were invaded by the German army in 1938; the occupation lasted until the end of the war in 1945. Post World-War II, Czechoslovakia became a communist state until the Velvet Revolution in 1989. At that time, it became the liberal democracy we know today. The final change to Czech borders took place when Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993, in the so-called Velvet Divorce

Today, over 10 million people call the Czech Republic home. The official language is Czech, a tricky but rewarding language to learn. The historical regions of Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia are now divided into thirteen administrative regions. As a member of the European Union and the Schengen Area, the Czech Republic does not have passport controls at its borders, though the Czech Koruna is used rather than the Euro. 

Holidays - celebrate these special days as an exchange student

January 1st March/April May 1st and 8th July 5th and 6th September 28th October 28th November 17th December 24th -  26th
New Year, Restoration Day of the Independent Czech State

Czechs celebrate the New Year along with much of the western world, and lentils are traditionally eaten to bring money in the coming year. The independent Czech Republic was founded on January 1, 1993, so Czechs also celebrate the anniversary of the creation of their own state. 

January 1st

Czechs may celebrate Easter as part of Christian religious beliefs, but more importantly, many folk traditions are alive and well in the Czech Republic. These customs vary based on the region of the country, but often include painting eggs, boys whipping girls to encourage health and fertility, and attending Easter markets.  

May 1st - Labor Day

Czech students and workers have this day off, to commemorate the 1886 strike of American workers. Most Czechs celebrate this day as a day of rest with those they love.  

May 8th - Victory day

Because Czechoslovakia was so heavily affected by World War II, modern Czechs still celebrate its end in 1945. The celebrations often include military parades, and the most famous celebration takes place in Plzen. 


May 1st and 8th
July 5th - Saints Cyril and Methodius Day

This day celebrates the arrival of Saints Cyril and Methodius, Slavic missionaries, to Moravia in the 800s. Saints Cyril and Methodius arrived to convert the pagan Slavs to Christianity, and there is an annual pilgrimage to Velehrad in southern Moravia. 

July 6th - Jan Hus Day

Jan Hus was a Roman Catholic priest and a great medieval thinker, as well as a reformer, teacher, and preacher. July 6 commemorates his death after being proclaimed a heretic by the Catholic Church. 

July 5th and 6th
Czech Statehood Day

On this day in 935, the Czech prince Wenceslas was murdered in Stara Boleslav, near Prague. After his death, prince Wenceslas became the patron saint of the Czech lands and a Catholic saint. You will find his statue on the main square of Prague, Wenceslas Square. 

September 28th
Czechoslovak Independence Day

At the end of October, Czechs celebrate their independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918. Students also have autumn holidays at the end of October, along with the holiday. 

October 28th
International Student Day, Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day

This holiday celebrates two different moments in Czech history. On November 17, 1939, Nazi occupiers closed all Czech universities in reaction to anti-Nazi demonstrations on October 28. Nine students and professors were executed on November 17, and hundreds more were sent to concentration camps. Fifty years later, in 1989, a peaceful demonstration commemorating these students turned into a protest against the communist regime. This brought about the end of communism in Czechoslovakia, and Czechs today celebrate both of these critical events in their history. 

November 17th

Czechs celebrate Christmas on the evening of December 24, while the 25th and 26th are days to relax and spend time with their families. On the 24, it is traditional to eat fried carp with potato salad, and lots of delicious Christmas cookies. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, Advent markets pop up in just about every city and village around the country. These are a great opportunity to try trdelník, a traditional Czech chimney cake, and hot drinks like spiced punch and hot chocolate. 

December 24th -  26th