If you are visiting the Czech Republic today, hide your broomstick or you could be in trouble. Bonfires (some as large as 8 meters high) will be lit all over the country as the witch that has kept cold plaguing the country for months is burned to drive away winter.
Today this festival is a time of fun
Nowadays this festival is a time of fun, but originally it was in earnest, as the night of the 30th April was a time when evil forces were strongest and wicked witches thronged the skies. Bonfires and throwing burning brooms up into the air were a means of protecting people and animals from their malevolent influence.
In some areas a witch effigy complete with a pointed hat is made, imagine something like a gothic Guy Fawkes. When it gets dark, the dummy is paraded in front of the public and thrown onto the bonfire. Dark patches of smoke are cheered as these mean a witch has flown away. When the fire begins to fade people go in search of a cherry tree in bloom, young women are kissed under its branches and the following day is dedicated to romantic matters.