St. Wenceslas Day is on September 28 and we honor this day by remembering and learning about its history. It is also Czech Statehood Day, a national holiday in the Czech Republic, and has been a public holiday for the past two decades. Did you know that, on this day, the archbishop of Prague brings the skull of St. Wenceslas and it is paraded through the town of Brandýs nad Labem-Stará Boleslav where the saint was murdered?
History of St. Wenceslas Day — Statehood Day
St. Wenceslas Day is also the feast day of St. Wenceslas who was the duke of Bohemia and the patron saint of the Czech Republic. Unfortunately, he was the victim of a murder plot orchestrated by Boleslav, who was his own brother.
Wenceslas ruled from 922 when he was 15 years old due to his father’s death in 921. He had a vision to unify Bohemia and make peace with Germany, however, this was met with a lot of hesitation from his brother Boleslav and the rest of his family. In an attempt to gain power, Boleslav murdered Wenceslas and the families of Wenceslas’s supporters. After this, Wenceslas was venerated as a saint as he died a martyr’s death. He also earned the title of a king after his death by Holy Roman Emperor Otto I. Thus he is the same King Wenceslas referred to in the Christmas carol, ‘Good King Wenceslas.’
St. Wenceslas is a celebrated saint and martyr, and played a significant role in cementing the dynasty of Přemyslid and the emancipation of the Czech state. Earlier, the feast day of St. Wenceslas was always a significant day for the Czech Republic, however, owing to the efforts of the Christian Democratic Party, it also became a national and public holiday (Statehood Day) in 2000 and is observed annually. It is actually two holidays on one day but both focus on the same thing — the creation of the Czech Republic and the patron saint who was responsible for it.
Apart from the normal celebrations, each year, people who contribute to Czech statehood are awarded St. Wenceslas medals at the Prague Castle where a memorial wreath is placed on the statue of St. Wenceslas. There are even pilgrimages to Brandýs nad Labem-Stará Boleslav, where St. Wenceslas was murdered.
St. Wenceslas Day — Statehood Day timeline
Boleslav commits fratricide by killing Wenceslas and assumes the throne, reigning for almost 50 years.
After feeling remorse for betraying his own brother, Boleslav builds the first church and devotes it to St. Wenceslas in Prague.
John Mason Neale and Thomas Helmore write the Christmas carol — ‘Good King Wenceslas.’
September 28 is declared as the Statehood Day of the Czech Republic, which also commemorates St. Wenceslas’ death.
St. Wenceslas Day — Statehood Day FAQs
What does Wenceslas mean?
Wenceslas roughly translates to “greater glory”.
Where is Wenceslas buried?
St. Wenceslas is buried in St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague.
What language did Bohemians speak?
According to Britannica, Bohemians spoke “Czech language, formerly Bohemian, Czech Čeština, West Slavic language closely related to Slovak, Polish, and the Sorbian languages of eastern Germany.”
How To Celebrate St. Wenceslas Day — Statehood Day
Order the traditional St. Wenceslas dish
Celebrate by ordering the traditional dish of roasted goose with red cabbage and potato dumplings.
Attend a church service
Traditionally, this day is celebrated with church services across the country. Attend a nearby church service with your family to honor the patron saint and pray for the continued protection of the nation.
Visit the patron saint’s statue
Pay your respects to St. Wenceslas by visiting his statue in Prague.
5 Facts About The Czech Republic That Will Surprise You
Czechs are not Czechoslovakians
After their separation, the Czechs and Slovakians continue to consider themselves related, however, officially, Czechs are separate from Slovakians.
Two distinct regions
The Czech Republic has two regions, Bohemia in the west and Moravia in the east.
Castle rich country
The Czech Republic boasts the most castles in Europe with over 200 castles.
World’s largest ancient castle
The Czech Republic is home to the world’s largest ancient castle, which is the Prague Castle — 1,870 feet long and 430 feet wide.
Prague did not face much heat in World War II and hence you can find a lot of architecture there that dates back to the Middle Ages.
Why St. Wenceslas Day — Statehood Day is Important
It marks the foundation of the Czech Republic
This day marks the foundation of the Czech Republic and celebrates the patron saint behind it.
It honors the martyr St. Wenceslas
It is dedicated to honoring the memory of St. Wenceslas and his contribution. The date marks the day he was murdered by his brother’s supporters.
It celebrates Bohemian culture
St. Wenceslas made efforts to solidify Bohemian culture and being Bohemian is a point of pride for some people of the Czech Republic.
St. Wenceslas Day — Statehood Day dates