A long weekend of anniversaries and celebrations

Double-flagged tram for Czechoslovak Independence Day © Ricky Yates

Double-flagged tram for Czechoslovak Independence Day © Ricky Yates

Friday 28th October 2016 – was a public holiday here in the Czech Republic, celebrating the ninety-eighth anniversary of the declaration of independence of a country that no longer exists 🙂 In the dying days of World War One, the new nation of Czechoslovakia was declared independent of the Austro-Hungarian Empire on 28th October 1918, by Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, who then served as President of the ‘First Republic’, until 1935.

Although the state of Czechoslovakia ceased to exist on 1st January 1993, following the ‘Velvet Divorce’, the public holiday remains! Interestingly, it is no longer kept as a public holiday in Slovakia. Instead, they have double celebrations on 1st January each year, both to mark the New Year and to celebrate the establishment of the separate Slovak state, on 1st January 1993.

Inevitably, with the public holiday this year falling on a Friday, it made the perfect excuse for many Czechs, to leave the city and spend a long weekend at the chata or chalupa, out in ‘the nature’. But it was also marked by two other significant things.

As well as the official celebration of Czechoslovak Independence Day at Prague Castle, overseen by President Miloš Zeman, which was boycotted by quite a number of the ‘great and the good’ because of the recent behaviour of the President, there was a very well-attended rival unofficial celebration in Staromestské námestí/Old Town Square. And following recent new legislation, shops with a floor area in excess of 200 sq. metres, were required to be closed for the day, much to the annoyance of many retailers, who are threatening to challenge the law in the courts.

Anticipating Reformation Day 31st October 2017 © Ricky Yates

Anticipating Reformation Day 31st October 2017 © Ricky Yates

Today, Monday 31st October – is Reformation Day / Reformationstag, marking the occasion on 31st October 1517, when Martin Luther sent a letter to the Archbishop of Mainz and Magdeberg, protesting about the sale of indulgences and enclosing a document setting out his disputation with Roman Catholic teaching and practice of that time, which has become known as ‘The 95 Theses’. According to tradition – though now disputed by some scholars, he also pinned these ’95 Theses’ to the door of the Schlosskirche /Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.

As I explained in a blog post written four years ago, in several more Protestant German Bundesländer, each year, 31st October is kept as a public holiday. The Church of England also remembers today, ‘Martin Luther – Church Reformer’, as part of its calendar.

This year, many more people have become aware of the significance of Reformation Day, because of Pope Francis visiting Sweden, to share in two ecumenical services with members of the Lutheran World Federation, seeking to bring about reconciliation between two major strands of Christianity, after four hundred and ninety-nine years of division.

Certainly, as far as I am concerned, I am much happier celebrating the life and teaching of Martin Luther today, rather than participating in any of the stupidities that both children and adults involve themselves with marking Halloween in the USA and the UK. I am pleased to say that, despite the efforts of commercial interests and some American and British expats, Halloween is not really seen by most Czech people as part of their culture. Long my this continue!

Tomorrow, Tuesday 1st November – is All Saints’ Day, the designation now most commonly used for what was once known as All Hallows’ Day, from which the word ‘Halloween’ is derived – the eve of All Hallows’ Day. I suspect the vast majority of people dressing up in stupid costumes and encouraging children to go around frightening people, haven’t a clue as to where the name ‘Halloween’ actually comes from 🙁

In many countries, tomorrow is a public holiday, including Austria, Slovakia, Poland, and the Bundesländ of Freistaat Bayern/Bavaria, which together surround the irreligious Czech Republic, where it in NOT a public holiday. But the day is a wonderful opportunity to both remember and give thanks, for all the saints who have gone before us, and to seek to learn from and follow their examples.

In between these significant days came yesterday, Sunday 30th October. What were we to mark and celebrate at St Clement’s? Well, as St Paul bids us to do, we prayed for ‘those in authority’, in our situation, particularly for those in authority in the Czech Republic. The children and young people, in their time together, learned about Martin Luther and Reformation Day. And we gave great voice to the hymn ‘For all the saints’, to the wonderful tune, Sine nomine, by Ralph Vaughan-Williams.

But in all of this, I was also very aware of another significant date. With it being Sunday 30th October 2016, it was exactly six months until the end of my time as Chaplain of St. Clement’s, Prague, as I’ve now written to bishops and various others, stating that I will retire on Sunday 30th April 2017.

8 comments to A long weekend of anniversaries and celebrations

  • Dear Ricky!
    That was far too many anniversaries at once, but very interesting to read about. As usual you are well informed. The most interesting was the announcement of your retirement. What a long journey you have taken, and what paths you have been walking, people you have met!! A life in service is a life of many colours. But surely you have more years to come??!!

    On Reformation Day, as I know you already knew, Pope Francis came to visit us and what a visit it was. Unfortunately I couldn’t be there, never thought that could happened but life is difficult right now. You can read about the visit on my latest post. Blessings to you and your wife!!!

    • Ricky

      Dear Solveig,

      Thank you as always, for visiting & commenting. I’m glad you found the post interesting.

      I’ve been quite open about my forthcoming retirement for some time. I first spoke about it in April 2014 at the Annual Church Meeting & wrote about here on my blog back in February this year, when I celebrated my 64th birthday. See http://rickyyates.com/when-im-sixty-four/ I hope I have more years to come though I am now older than both my parents were when they died.

      I have just briefly read your latest post & will go back there in due course. But I had great difficulty actually finding your blog because the link you left here didn’t work. You omitted the .com following ‘blogspot 🙁 I’ve been in and corrected it now, one advantage of having my own domain & using WordPress 🙂

  • Em

    A very informative post, Ricky! I didn’t know about the new Oct. 28 store closure legislation. The joint ecumenical prayer service truly was symbolic, though I wonder how much impact it will have on the two traditions cooperating more. Anyhow, I thought of the Martin Luther statue in Dresden and how it’s so near the Frauenkirche! I hope you are feeling good about your route to retirement; I’d be counting down the days 🙂

  • Sean Mccann

    Hectic times indeed Ricky! Apologies from Ireland (again) for our part in the foundation of the Hallowe’en/ Samhain festival (without the dressing up and begging door to door aspects), long may the Czechs ignore it. Long live ecumenism, and God send the day when all people of good will may be one for the benefit of all humanity. Wishing you good health for the future as you prepare for your retirement. Thank you for another great post.

    • Ricky

      No need to apologise for your fellow Irish citizens, Sean. Fortunately, this year I saw even less marking of Halloween here than in previous years. Maybe it was because I was following closely what was happening in Sweden that day instead 🙂 Thank you both for your best wishes & kind words.

  • Local

    Men of 28 October are Svehla, Rasin, Stribrny, Soukup and Srobar not Masaryk.
    It was the last step.

    Masaryk and the Czecho-Slovak Legion is one of the most remarkable stories of the WWI.
    More then 88 000 Czech and Slovak volunteers formed Czecho-Slovak Legion in Russia, France and Italy Where they fought against the Central powers.

    In July 1918 Masaryk drafted a memorandum to the US State Department:”I think that this recognition has become practically necessary.I dispose of three Armies (in Russia,France and Italy). I am,as a wit said, the master of Siberia and half Russia, and yet I am in the US formally private man…”

    Masaryk, Benes and Stefanik established the Czecho-Slovac National Council in Paris on May 1916.
    Benes formally upgraded the CSNC into a Provisional Government on 14 October 1918.This Government was immediately recognized by France, 18 October by USA, 21 Oct by Italy, 23 Oct by UK, 24 Oct by Serbia.
    The real center of Czechoslovak diplomatic activity was Washington.In effort to attract public attention to the CS issue, Masaryk decided to publish a Declaration of Independence of the Czecho-Slovak Nation on 18 October 1918.

    The Czecho-Slovak Provisional Government had acquired a status which neither the Polish nor Yugoslav organization were to know during the war.

    On 28 October 1918 in Geneva delegation Provisional Government led Benes met delegation Prague National Committee led a chairman Kramar(another a national hero)

    Tolle Lege


    • Ricky

      Thank you for all this additional background information & my apologies for taking so long to to approve & reply to your comment.