Over the years Czechs seem to have warmed up to Halloween, a holiday that is essentially a mash-up of their childhood maškarní ples celebrations and the Velikonoce ritual of going to door-to-door in search of slivovice. Celebrating in Prague is now easier than ever and each Halloween brings new traditions along with the familiar expat favorites.
There are plenty of G-rated events taking place on October 31 (though an unfortunate advert for one of them read: “Hag’s hole is full of Nestle candy.” Yikes). As per tradition the Prague Botanic Gardens promises a wild rumpus of pumpkin carving, face-painting, and weenie roasting. Bohemia Bagel’s annual celebration kicks off with a screening of the Charlie Brown Halloween Special followed by a haunted house and pumpkin carving. (Reservations are recommended.) Prague’s Nebušice or, “Little America”, neighborhood is always a hot-bed of trick-or-treat activity.
The Children’s Halloween Costume Party organized by Kids in Prague and Expats.cz features pumpkin lantern making and jack-o-lantern balloons, a costume contest with prizes, halloween games and a video dance party. It will take place Saturday, October 30th from 12:00 – 15:00 at Belushi’s Mosaic House.
Also worth noting: Class Acts, a group that organizes activities for bilingual children, has a Halloween-themed story hour with costume parade lined up at the Kampa Community Center. On October 30, Zámek Berchtold in neighboring Kunice-Vidovice, hosts a spooky chateau walk with pumpkin carving and other frightful festivities for kids, and a Celtic band and mulled wine for grown-ups. Halloween comes early to Prague Airport (October 23), which is partnering with the Children’s Park Association to bring you autumn revelry in Terminal 2. Highlights of the event, aside from the aforementioned hag, include an autumn-inspired food tasting, pumpkin jam making, and arts and crafts workshops.
Michelin-starred chef Andreas Accordi purportedly stocks his Four Seasons kitchen from the twenty-some varieties of heirloom pumpkins at Bykoš, among them a pumpkin known as the “Paroubek” for its bumpy mien. The farm is 40 km out of town, near Beroun, but owner Jan Brotanek says they will deliver to Prague. Mr. Brotanek speaks English and welcomes your call – he’s happy to accommodate group visits. In addition to pumpkins, Pumpkin World, a small farm in East Bohemia, sells sweet potatoes and homemade honey and their corn labyrinth, open through October, is a big hit with wee ones.
Pumpkins on the stoop aglow are bested only by pumpkins in the oven baking. Thanks to pastry chef Lana Libin Mayer owner of Lanka Cakes for sharing this recipe:
Spiced Pumpkin Biscotti
Makes 20 pieces
1/2 cup (120 g) pureed pumpkin
2 tbsp melted butter
1 cup (200 g) light brown sugar
3 cups (500g) plain flour (Czech hladká mouka)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 cup (100 g) walnuts (optional)
Preheat the oven to 175°C. In a bowl mix together pumpkin, eggs, sugar and butter. In another bowl, combine dry ingredients. Combine the two together until dough is formed. It will be sticky and quite runny. Flouring your hands as needed, form two logs and place on a greased tray making sure the logs are sufficiently spaced apart. Bake for 30 minutes or until firm to the touch. Let cool for 15 minutes and then, using a serrated knife, slice into 1.5 cm slices. Lay the slices flat on the baking sheet and bake for an additional 12-15 minutes in a cooler oven (150°C), until the top side is light brown. Once cooled, biscotti can be stored for up to two weeks in an airtight container.
Tip: If using fresh pumpkin, it’s best to use Hokkaido or any other starchy variety.
For some of us, Halloween (along with St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, et. al.) exists solely for purposes of overconsumption. Is there a better time than Halloween for imbibing absinthe, long-associated with ear harvesting and other grisly activities? Aleš Puta proprietor and resident absinthe expert at recently opened Hemingway Bar will talk you through a proper absinthe service that allows for a tasting of the bar’s Swiss, French, or Czech vintages. An evening holed up in this dim yet polished burrow watching ice water drip from the sterling robinette of a Belle-Epoque fountain, transforming your glass into a milky globe, holds certain Gothic appeal.
A jaunt to the Pivovar Rambousek in Hradec Králové gets you a seasonal pumpkin ale. Good luck finding pumpkin pivo in Prague – according to the Rambousek’s brewmaster, the market just “isn’t ready for it.”
(Good) parents of young children will be making their wee one’s ensemble. DIY types look to MarLen and Textil Forum for fabric. Ladana specializes in historical costume rentals for all ages, Vše na karneval and Ateliér Feerie sell a wide assortment of looks for kids. Věra Černá will custom-design costumes. Agentura Karneval has an organized, English site and stocks makeup, wigs and accessories. Ateliéry Famood is English-friendly as well. For something different, Zanni crafts beautiful papier-mâché Venetian masks. M.A.C. is offering special Halloween make-up sessions for those looking for that professional edge.
We’re going to be seeing a lot of Mad-Men-inspired costumes again this year. Luckily, the new Kiss My Valentine label from the owners of Vintage and Retro boutiques designs one-of-a-kind ’50s- and ’60s-style party dresses for would-be Betty Drapers. Another popular costume for 2010 is Lady Ga-Ga. Potential Ga-Gas can suit up at Robertson.
A recently expatriated acquaintance of mine said that her family celebrates Halloween 50 percent less than they do in America. I think she’s onto something. Holidays like this one take on an enjoyable simplicity when detached from the usual commercial frenzy. But simple isn’t for everyone. If you don’t do Halloween-light stock up on party favors and dastardly decor at the online party emporiums Žerty and HDT. The latter also rents fog machines and DJ equipment (for those who really don’t do Halloween-light).
A Halloween-weekend bender will be easy to achieve. Expats.cz will haunt Mosaic House and Belushi’s Bar on Saturday October 30th, with a kids’ Halloween party in the afternoon and an adult Halloween party called An Evening of Screams from 19:00. There will be an exciting program of costume and contests, a murder mystery, a live band from 8-10pm (Dead Souls), DJ, and horror flicks on a loop. Tickets are 100 CZK in advance, 150 CZK at the door. Also included are food & drink specials all night long, and a free Halloween cocktail and freaky snacks for everybody.
For other Halloween options, there’s a Monsters Ball at Klub Kostel (Friday, October 29); SaSaZu‘s Bloody Sexy Halloween and the Globe Bookstore and Café‘s more laid-back, unplugged music affair (both on Saturday). On Halloween Sunday, after-hours lean-to the Blind Eye opens up at 9p.m. And back at the Globe, a screening of the Hitchcock masterpiece Psycho. Gay bar Friends warms up for the weekend with an October 28 performance by her Majesty Diva NOXX followed by Friday and Saturday parties. Prague Saints gets in on the act, too, with drink specials and costumed carousing on October 30. Also on Halloween Eve, Club Temple’s Witches and Bitches ball.
The English-language theater company Blood Love and Rhetoric presents a series of supernatural short stories by 1920s horror writer H.P. Lovecraft adapted for the stage on October 28-30. For an artful fright night the provocative Decadence Now! Visions of Excess exhibit, held at a number of top venues including Galerie Rudolfinum, Dox Centrum and the UPM, is a macabre examination of Pain, Pop, Sex, Madness and Death via masked Siamese twins, dolls in bloody bathtubs and other unsettling images courtesy of bold artists like Robert Mapplethorpe, Cindy Sherman and Damien Hirst. Staying in you say? Upir z Feratu, the 1981 horror classic starring First Lady Dagmar Veškrnová (Havlová), and other Czech horror classics are available at Terryho Ponožky. Don’t forget the candy. Proof positive that Halloween has arrived in the Czech lands? Groceries everywhere now stock bags of Margot minis.