Lantern parades, in Czech lampionový průvod, take place around the world and are typically religious or commemorative in nature – in the Czech Republic their history was a bit more political. But you wouldn’t know it from the lantern parade of today, a sweet tradition that sees groups of families, schools, and entire communities lighting up the autumn night with assorted paper creations shaped like everything from jack-o-lanterns to dinosaurs.
In a 2007 article published on Czech news server Aktualne.cz, Marek Junek from the Department of Modern History at the National Museum said that parades, where participants carried lanterns or candles, took place in the country as early as 1879 in honor of the silver wedding anniversary of Franz Joseph I and Empress Elisabeth.
The practice saw increased visibility during the First Republic, especially during celebrations for the tenth anniversary of the Czechoslovak Republic and on the birthday of president Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk.
Lantern parades began to take on a bit more controversial meaning during the Soviet era when lighted processionals devoted to the November 7th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution were government mandated.
Due to its totalitarian associations, the practice declined after the Velvet Revolution (November 17, 1989) although the past decade has seen the glowing return of the Czech lantern parade.
Illuminated celebrations mark autumn festivals in schools throughout October and November, St. Martin’s Day on November 11, on the Day of the Establishment of Czechoslovakia on October 28, and even for April Čarodějnice festivities.
And where can you buy a lantern in Canada? Generally in Dollarama or in party stores! But make sure they have the lights inside! In the old days, we used to have a candle in it (yes, safety first!) or a small battery powered light attached to on a string (all home made!). In today’s world, it’s much easier to find a lantern that is pretty and safe. And you can add personal touch to it yourself any time!