Lantern parades, in Czech lampionový průvod, take place around the world and are typically religious or commemorative in nature—here in the Czech Republic their history is a bit more political.
But you wouldn’t know it from the lantern parade of today, a sweet tradition that sees groups of families, schools, and entire communities lighting up the autumn night with assorted paper creations shaped like everything from jack-o-lanterns to dinosaurs.
In a 2007 article published on Czech news server Aktualne.cz, Marek Junek from the Department of Modern History at the National Museum said that parades, where participants carried lanterns or candles, took place in the country as early as 1879 in honor of the silver wedding anniversary of Franz Joseph I and Empress Elisabeth.
The practice saw increased visibility during the First Republic, especially during celebrations for the tenth anniversary of the Czechoslovak Republic and on the birthday of president Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk.
Lantern parades began to take on a bit more controversial meaning during the Soviet era when lighted processionals devoted to the November 7th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution were government mandated.
Due to its totalitarian associations, the practice declined after the Velvet Revolution although the past decade has seen the glowing return of the Czech lantern parade.
Illuminated celebrations mark autumn festivals in schools throughout October and November, St. Martin’s Day on November 11, on the Day of the Establishment of Czechoslovakia on October 28, and even for April Čarodějnice festivities.
In fact, this time of year paper lanterns are often hard to come by. Look for them in papírnictví (stationery shops), larger supermarkets, and party supplies stores. If you have little ones, we recommend buying the reusable battery operated stick which will light up your autumn for years to come!
Large lighted parades typically take place at the Botanical Garden (October 31), Stromovka, Riegrovy Sady, and even at the Prague ZOO.
Stay tuned to our Events Listings for upcoming lantern parades.