In anticipation of St. Martin’s Day (Nov. 11) festivities, Czechs are busy preparing paper lanterns that hold both cultural and political significance.

Lampionový Průvod, or Lantern Parades, first appeared in the Czech Republic in the 1800s and were used to commemorate special events or important occasions. Due to a tumultuous political history during Soviet rule, the tradition largely fell into decline.

However, in recent years, there has been a notable resurgence, particularly in smaller communities, and the tradition has regained popularity among families, schools, and various social groups. Each autumn, these groups come together to light paper lanterns and release them into the enchanting night sky.

“I haven’t been able to participate in this tradition yet myself, but I’ve seen people lighting up the lanterns last year around this time. I had no clue what it was for,” states Alisa Goma, a second-year International Relations student at AAU. 

The history of Lantern Parades in Bohemia dates back to around 1879, in celebration of the silver wedding anniversary of Franz Joseph I and Empress Elisabeth, according to Marek Junek from the Department of Modern History at the National Museum.

Photo by: Deník Jiří Kopáč

They were even used to celebrate the birthday of former Czechoslovakian president Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, as well as the 10th anniversary of the Republic. 

During the Soviet era, Lantern Parades were viewed with disdain as lighted processions were mandated on November 7th, in remembrance of the Great October Socialist Revolution.

“I can see why there are probably some conflicted feelings about this tradition as well, but it’s nice that they’re still celebrating it to some extent,” said Alisa. 

As the celebrations are typically more community-oriented and take place outside the main squares and centre, many students may be unaware of this tradition and not know how to participate.

In the days leading up to St. Martin’s, keep an eye out for groups gathering in parks and squares to celebrate this feast and enjoy Lampionový Průvod—for Prague-ers specifically in Naplavka!

To participate in these celebrations, one can find lamps at papírnictví shops and locate events on Facebook, such as this one, on November 4th in Bohuňovice.