New Year's Day fireworks in Prague. via Raymond Johnston

Will New Year’s Day fireworks happen in Prague after all?

A civic group plans to stage a big fireworks show in Prague to make up for City Hall's cancellation

An independent group now promises that there will be an organized fireworks show in Prague on New Year’s Day. Details currently are a bit sketchy, and more will be known in December, according to Milujupraha.cz.

One of the more controversial decisions of Prague City Hall was to cancel the traditional fireworks display on January 1, 2020, which is not only New Year’s Day but also Restoration Day of the Independent Czech State. City Hall is instead planning on staging a videomapping at Wenceslas Square.

The location and other details of the fireworks show are being kept secret, as the organizers do not want City Hall to know too far in advance, as it would allow them to take action to stop it. Recent shows have been launched from Letná Park, and they have also taken place on Vítkov Hill and barges in the Vltava river.

“Prague citizens will not lose their traditional form of celebrating the arrival of the new year! A spectacular fireworks show will light up the sky above the Czech capital on January 1, and people will have the opportunity to greet the arrival of the jubilee new year 2020 in dignity. Further details will be declassified in early December,” Prague historian David Černý said on the Milujupraha.cz website. While he shares the same name as a famous artist, this is a different person.

fireworks
Fireworks over Charles Bridge. via Raymond Johnston

The organizers of last year’s fireworks and the civic association Ohňostroj pro Praha (Fireworks for Prague) want to preserve the decades-long Prague tradition.

Martin Peter, designer and choreographer of the last five New Year’s Day fireworks shows in Prague, said the form of entertainment has a long history. “Already during the time of [Emperor] Rudolph II. we were the real European cradle of fireworks, and Prague fireworks have been connecting people for many decades,” he said, according to Mulujupraha.cz.

He does not want to let fireworks disappear due to the whims of the current leadership of Prague and the concerns of environmentalists, he added. He wanted to try to save the annual show based on support from fans and citizens of Prague and the Czech Republic.

The show will be paid for by contributions from the public, and details can be found on the Fireworks for Prague website. Last year’s official city-sponsored fireworks show cost 1.7 million CZK.

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Peter also claims that everything is being done legally. “When preparing this year’s event, we proceeded according to legal legislative options and the only thing that can stop us is bad weather. Despite this, we are cautious and will gladly comply with the will of the people to say what citizens want,” he said, adding that the will of the people will be determined by how much they contribute to the staging the show.

The Fireworks for Prague was started by Jan Šaršoun. “I founded a movement to preserve our cultural traditions. … I believe that people are interested in fireworks, so we leave the financing of the fireworks to their will. Every citizen of Prague, Czech citizen and organization can contribute to our transparent account any amount and help save a part of our country’s culture.” he said.

He says the real problem is not organized shows but the uncontrolled use of fireworks in the street. For that reason he has also organized the Nebudu střílet (I Will Not Shoot) campaign, intended to promote safety by limiting amateur fireworks.

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videomapping
Videomapping at the National Museum. via Raymond Johnston

Prague City Hall in August announced that it would not fund a fireworks show, and would stage a videomapping instead. The Pirate Party, which currently leads the City Hall coalition, said even before the 2019 show that they opposed it but it was too late to cancel it as contracts had been signed.

City Hall said the noise of the fireworks affected both pets and wildlife, and that an alternative would be better. “It is a helpful step not only for all citizens of the metropolis who are sensitive to excessive noise, but also for animals that face unnecessary stress every year. I believe that everyone will enjoy the new form of New Year celebrations, and I am glad that we unanimously agreed on it,” Prague City Councilor Jan Chabr (United Force for Prague) said in August when the change was announced.

It was later announced that the videomapping would take place at Wenceslas Square with shows at 6 pm, 7 pm, and 8 pm to accommodate the crowds. The overall cost will be the same as for previous fireworks shows.

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