Independence Day celebrations in Czechia mark the country’s 104th anniversary

Tomb of Masaryk in Lány |  Photo: Radio Prague International

Czechoslovak Independence Day traditionally begins with a memorial ceremony at the Vítkov Memorial in Prague attended by the President, government officials, parliament officials, church dignitaries and cultural figures who lay wreaths at the grave of the unknown soldier to pay tribute to those who laid down their lives for the country. President Miloš Zeman, who had to miss last year’s event due to health problems, has confirmed that he will attend the ceremony this year.

During the day, Czechs across the country remember the first president of Czechoslovakia, TG Masaryk. Official wreath-laying ceremonies take place at Masaryk’s tomb in Lány and his statue in Prague’s Hradčany Square, but people also flock to the hundreds of busts, statues, monuments and plaques dedicated to the co-founder of the Czechoslovakia in towns and villages around Czechia to lay flowers and lighted candles. Often a live band will play President Masaryk Ach’s favorite song, synku, synku.

Independence Day Celebrations at Prague Castle (2018) |  Photo: Filip Jandourek, Radio Prague International

A changing of the guard ceremony at Prague Castle at noon traditionally draws crowds of onlookers. Meanwhile, inside Prague Castle, President Zeman will appoint new army generals. In previous years, Miloš Zeman attended the swearing-in ceremony of army recruits in Hradčany Square on National Day. This year, however, the event took place in the Brno barracks a day earlier.

The Czechoslovak Legionary community will pay homage to the fallen legionnaires on Emauzy Square and in the evening the Prague Symphony Orchestra will give a concert for the Republic at the Municipal House in Prague.

Traditional ceremony at the Vítkov Memorial |  Photo: Tomas Adamec, Czech Radio

Unlike last year, however, Prague Castle will not be illuminated in the country’s national colors – white, red and blue, due to energy saving measures.

The celebrations will end with an award ceremony in the Vladislav Hall of Prague Castle. For the past two years, the ceremony had to be postponed first due to the Covid pandemic and last year due to President Zeman’s health issues. The awards for 2020 and 2021 were thus awarded this year on March 7.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy |  Photo: Ceská televize, ČT24

The list of winners for 2022 is being kept secret, but it has been officially announced that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will receive the Order of the White Lion, the Czech Republic’s highest state honor, in absentia.

This year’s awards ceremony on October 28 will be followed by a reception, which was canceled in March due to the war in Ukraine. However, as in previous years, the ceremony will be marred by political controversy. The majority of government ministers will not be present, either because they have not received an invitation from the Head of State due to personal animosities, or because they are absent to protest against the fact that the president send out selective invitations to what should be a state occasion.

Meanwhile, across the country, people held outdoor rallies, lantern parades and concerts to celebrate the country’s birthday.

The Sokol Association organizes its fourth annual Sokol Race of the Republic in 53 Czech cities, including a course for young runners. Czechs living abroad can also put on their running shoes since the race will also take place in some cities in Europe and the United States.

Several institutions in the Czech Republic will mark the national holiday by opening their normally inaccessible premises to the public. People will be able to visit the seat of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. Liechtenstein and the government’s Hrzán Palace will also be open, as will the newly reconstructed Skoda Palace and Clam-Gallas Palace. The town halls of Prague, Liberec and Ostrava will also open their doors to the public.

Berta D. Wells