The Czech version of Halloween is called “Dušičky” (All Souls’ Day) and takes place on November 2nd. But there is a difference. In Czechia no one dresses up and you see no children walking from door to door asking for trick or treat. Rather you see a lot of people visiting the graves of their deceased family members or friends, to leave flowers and light up candles. And not only one candle. As soon as the sun has set the cemeteries are brightly illuminated. The light is considered as a guide for the dead as it is believed that their souls return on this day to communicate with the living.
At first glance there are not many similarities with the way Halloween is celebrated. But Halloween is also a day where the dead return to earth. To save themselves from harm, the living dress up and put lit up pumpkins in front of their doors to scare those souls away.
Another similarity between Halloween and “Dušičky” is their presumed origin. It is said to go back to the Celts that celebrated the end of summer and the beginning of the dark season, winter, on the day before the 1st of November. The Celts called it “Samhain”. It points back to a day when great battles happened and a lot of heroes and gods died. Also the boundary between the living and the dead get blurred. This way it was easier for the souls to return to earth, either to communicate with the living or to harm them.
Around 700 B.C all people of a community met on this day to light up a fire. This fire can be interpreted in different ways. Either it was a guide or it was used as an instrument to keep the darkness of the season away.
Another story that might explain the origin of “Dušičky” goes back to the beginning of the 11th century. The French abbot Odilo of Cluny introduced the All Souls’ Day in 1030. Theologically it is connected to purgatory and the forgiveness of sins.
It is not quite sure which of those two traditions the Czech Halloween is actually connected to. But either way, “Dušičky” is an ongoing celebration in the Czech Republic. And it is carried on, no matter which generation.