1st May is celebrated in Czech as “Svátek zamilovaných” (Love Day), known for couples, kissing under the tree in bloom.
The tradition says that a girl should be kissed under a cherry blossom so she will stay beautiful all year round.
Perhaps every Czech is able to recite at least a couple of verses from Máj (May), a famous poem written by the romantic poet Karel Hynek Mácha. The poem is a homage to the beauty of spring and tells the tragic love story of Vilém, a bandit, and Jarmila, the girl he loves.
In the Czech Republic, the poem is continuously in print and often memorized and recited by children at school.
Here you can read the first lines of the beautiful poem in English:
Late evening, on the first of May—
The twilit May—the time of love.
Meltingly called the turtle-dove,
Where rich and sweet pinewoods lay.
Whispered of love the mosses frail,
The flowering tree as sweetly lied,
The rose’s fragrant sigh replied
To love-songs of the nightingale.
In shadowy woods the burnished lake
Darkly complained a secret pain,
By circling shores embraced again;
And heaven’s clear sun leaned down to take
A road astray in azure deeps,
Like burning tears the lover weeps.
This tragic and exceptionally musical poem, set in the romantic landscape around a lake which now bears Macha’s name, has become a symbol of love for Czechs, although at first it was rejected by many Macha’s contemporaries and literary critics.
It is Mácha’s sculpture in Prague Petřín where, on May 1st (or on another day of May), lovers would come with flowers to spend some pleasant time on top of the mountain, high above the city.
Walking on the Charles Bridge or on the embankment of Vltava could be really nice, but if you are in love and you want to celebrate „Prague Valentine’s day,“ you really need to visit Petřín.
There is also another tradition involving single men. Indeed, the night before May 1st, single men go to the woods to cut a tree.
They remove the branch and decore the trunk with different things such as scarves, ribbons, and flowers. Then the maypole is erected in the village square and guard it during the night because men from the surrounding villages intend to steal it.
If the maypole is not stolen, single men are allowed to go to single women’s houses and give them little presents. In the evening, they all celebrate May at the ball.