Halloween is here again, and here’s a rundown of some things you can do with your kids this year. Halloween is relatively new to the Czech Republic, although they too have a ‘day of the dead’ on November 2nd. This day, called Dušičky, is celebrated by visiting graveyards and decorating graves of loved ones. That is, after all, the original purpose of Halloween. In the US, the holiday has evolved into a mashup of candy, costumes and spookiness; people in the rest of the world are warming to this concept, especially the children.
What could be more fun than trick-or-treating? We could all be bold pioneers and try ringing on doorbells and requesting candy. It’s a start, at least. Of course, no one will be prepared, and some might get truly freaked out, so you may not net much. Then again, you might make friends with your neighbors this way. If that doesn’t sound like much fun, there is one place you can go to experience trick or treating for yourself, right here in Prague.
The Nebušice neighborhood of Malá Šárka has enough American residents that they joined forces to recreate a real US neighborhood that welcomes trick-or-treaters. About a quarter of the houses here are decorated for the occasion, and some even have front lawn scenery like coffins and motion-activated recordings and animatronics. The whole neighborhood pulls together and the atmosphere is fun and friendly; even amongst the trick-or-treaters there’s an air of camaraderie. And it’s not just Americans handing out the booty – other nationalities join in on the action – so kids make out like bandits with treats from places like Israel and Japan! And even America can’t compete with that. But not every house is open to the revelry – so do not disturb the ones with signs on the door saying “No trick or treaters!”. True, in the states, these people’s homes would be covered with eggs and toilet paper as punishment, but this is not America.
This simulation of a fun-loving (if spooky) American neighborhood is a wonder to behold. However, as more and more people find out about it, the crowds get bigger, and the fun comes to an end sooner. Once the treats run out, the kids go home, and the streets are overrun by gangs of teens in search of candy – a bit like zombies, actually. Now, I’m sorry, but if you’re not a kid, and you’re not even wearing a costume, then you have no business trick-or-treating.
If you decide to visit this cultural gem, please respect the residents, make the effort to have a fantastic costume – yes, adults too – and do take a moment to chat with the people who answer the door. And for heaven’s sake, remind your children to say “thank you!” before ambling over to the next door. To contribute to this phenomenon without leaning too hard on the resources, why not turn up with something to give away? The folks from Jelly Belly are going to be out with the trick-or-treaters, handing out bags of candy. If we all do something like that, we can support this great initiative.
Sadly, trick-or-treating is on the wane in the states – people are increasingly paranoid about the safety of their children. Many people opt for a Halloween Party instead of going out.
PACK (Prague Activities for Cool Kids) is throwing a Halloween party for children on Sunday, October 30th from 1:00 – 4:00. The event will include “Haunted Ghost Trail” and “Flight of the Witches” broomstick relay races. Each child gets a gift bag as they leave. Entrance is 200 CZK for kids 3 – 9. Siblings under 2 are free. To attend, you MUST register by sending an email to email@example.com as the capacity is 60 children. This party is open to everyone, not just PACK members. The first Halloween party of its kind took place last year. Here is a write-up of it, written by co-organizers Kids in Prague.
What else can you do with kids this fall? The Brotánek family has a Pumpkin Farm in Bykos, near Beroun, which is open to the public. Located 35 km from Prague, it’s a fun day out for the family where kids can see rabbits, chickens and turkeys. For directions, visit their website. On Saturday, October 15th, they are hosting a big open day event, with food and games for kids. You will walk away with all the pumpkins and squash you could want. The farm is open to the public, so you can visit it other times too if you’d rather pick your own pumpkin, or choose from the giant pile in the barn. Directory listing.
There are some local places to visit for pumpkin fun, too. The best is TREES in Černý vůl. This garden center has impressive hanging squash decorations and a “treasure trail” kids can walk along. It plays host to preschools who come there in groups, play the various games and then decorate pumpkins. Contact the center to find out when you can visit as an individual to take part in these activities.
Pumpkins can also be found in some local supermarkets and even plant shops. A variety of pumpkins, such as Hokaido as well as the classic large pumpkins, are now available for purchase directly from Czech growers in the fruit and veg hall 22 at Pražská tržnice.
Another garden center, Chládek, has a Pumpkin Party every year. Kids can carve pumpkins, and it goes until night time – when fire dancers perform. It has already passed for this year, but check their site in early fall to find details of other events, or when to join the Halloween event of next fall. Generally, Chládek is a great place to visit for things like crafting materials.
Speaking of crafting, here are some fun Halloween activities to do with your child at home:
You may have noticed more and more Farmer’s Markets around Prague. This is a wonderful trend – it gives local farmers a place to sell their goods directly to the public, and the public is quick to embrace the “buy local” ethos when they see how good the goods really are. Well now Famers’s Markets – with their quintessential Czech fare – is heralding the American custom of pumpkin carving! Several pumpkin themed events have already passed, but on Saturday, Oct. 29th, there is a pumpkin carving workshop from 9.00 – 13.00, open to the public. This is at Kubanske namesti in Prague 10. All the details and a view of more upcoming programs here.
Every year the Botanical Gardens near the Prague Zoo host a Halloween Party right on the 31st, from 15:00 – 20:00. Wear some grubby clothes and you can carve pumpkins that are sold there. There’s also sausage grilling, facepainting, and contests for kids.
There’s also a party open to the public at Karlínské Spektrum, the Prague 8 division of DDM (Dum Deti a Mlady – or “Youth Home”), October 31 from 15:30 to 18:30 at Karlínské náměstí 7. This is a costume party for children ages 4 and up. It will be a Czech-speaking event, as are all the events listed below. Entrance: 20 CZK.
Events Outside Prague
Plzeň: This “Halloween at the Castle” takes place in Chateau Zbiroh.
Chlumci nad Cidlinou: Halloween Party for Kids at Karlova Koruna castle.
Mcely: What about a relaxing weekend with the family, steeped in discrete luxury? The elegant, yet family-friendly, 5-star hotel & spa is offering a “Pumpkin weekend”.
Nymburk: This Halloween party for kids is from 13:00 -15:30 on the 31st and offers activities for children and adults. Entrance is 50 CZK. DDM, 2. května 968 in Nymburk/Středočeský kraj.
Brezanek: This event promises dance performances, a haunted castle, and the lantern procession that Czech children do this time of year. Entrance fee is voluntary. October 30, 16:00 – 20:00 at Dělnická 120, in Dolní Břežany.
Kralupy: Not far from Prague, this event includes a contest for best ghost costume and pumpkin carving. Pumpkin-based food will be available. Party begins at 15:00. Cost: 30 CZK to get in, 15 CZK to buy a sausage to roast. Třebízského 524, Kralupy nad Vltavou.
Brno: This adrenaline ropes-course will be host to the biggest Halloween-themed event in Moravia. On Saturday, Oct 29 from 13:00 – 19:00 there is a party with games and entertainment, including a bubble show, lantern parade, and a fire show.
For Teenagers: If your kids are over the parties and costumes, and you want a truly unique Czech-only experience, there are two slightly more frightening things you could consider. Visit the ossuary (Bone Church) in Sedlec, near Kutná Hora. I for one think it’s beautiful, not scary, but maybe for some it’s harrowing to be surrounded by human bones.
Or make a trip to Slovakia to tour the ruins of the castle in Čachtice, which is where Lady Bathory lived and executed countless young maidens – to bathe in their blood. The place is positively frightening – not so much in what you can see there today, but the dark energy around it. I’m not so sensitive, but visiting that place left me feeling unsettled for days. Scary stuff!
Have a great – and spooky, if you can handle it – Halloween 2011!