Halloween in the Czech Republic has a bad rap. Several years ago Christian-Dem Tomáš Zdechovský publicly criticized the recent invasion of the “crazy” American holiday, blaming the decreasing popularity of the Czech All Souls Day (dušičky) on the influx of jack-o-lanterns and other spooky symbols of Halloween.
The residents of Prague’s Vinohrady district are looking to change that.
Prague Halloween: Trick-or-Treat for Charity is an October 31st event designed to give mixed-culture families in the Czech capital the chance to celebrate this traditional American holiday while raising funds for a good Czech cause.
Organized by long-time Vinohrady resident Dinah Spritzer, a journalist and mother of young twins, the idea for the event emerged as an alternative to the annual trick-or-treating in Prague 6’s Nebušice district, known for its candy-hungry crowds.
“Someone had heard that those families were a bit tired of hosting the expat world at their doors so I thought, instead of our kids commuting for candy, why don’t we try to show some community spirit and do some giving, not just taking,” says Spritzer.
Putting together the initial event required the large-scale mobilization of local participants as well as volunteers willing to hand out candy and help map routes.
One of the biggest challenges for Spritzer personally was translating a very American holiday into something palatable for a local demographic.
“I think Czechs, understandably, are not really into people foisting their foreign holidays upon them; they had that enough with the Soviet Union. But what about sharing a holiday and making it about something other than American greed by giving back to a Czech charity?”
Last year’s trick-or-treat outing saw close to 200 people — costumed kids and their minders — raise just over 14,000 CZK for SOS Children’s Villages, a Czech charity that provides foster homes and care for families in crisis.
“What was really amazing last year was that every child who came to the door was just as excited to drop money in the bucket as they were to get candy. They took so much pride in this and I thought, wow, what a great way to teach kids’ gratitude,” says Spritzer.
This year Spritzer is aiming to raise 20,000 CZK for SOS Children’s Villages. She is currently seeking volunteers and local businesses to help with the effort; last year Prague Thrift Store, Sweetlife Café, and Boho Café proved festive stops on the trick-or-treat trail.
Information about the event is now available in the Czech language to encourage area schools and more families to get involved.
“I hope we can keep making the event bigger and get more hosts and really get a neighborhood spirit.”
Vinohrady resident Zuzana Höferová Piper said of passing out candy last year:
“Many Czech kids are already aware of the American trick-or-treating tradition but until last year there was never an opportunity to take part. Greeting little ones on your doorstep is very heart-warming and devoting a couple hours of your time to make their Halloween worth remembering is great, but doing it for charity is even better.”
Last year’s donations enabled 15 children from SOS Children’s Village Chvalčov to go on day trips to Kroměříž for ice skating and to the Ostrava Science and Technology Center during the February/March school break.
And they got to experience the best part of Halloween, of course.
“With our help,” says Spritzer, “They did all those things and had a candy-filled Christmas party.”
To participate in this year’s Prague Halloween: Trick-or-Treat for Charity on Wednesday, October 31, 2018, see the Facebook page for the event.
All photos courtesy of Maria Praha.