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Witches Night becomes a spring festival

Paleni Charodejnic, or Witches Night, in the Czech Republic is a ritual that dates back centuries. Just how many is unclear, as is the original meaning, although one of the primary notions is that it had to do with a cleansing of evil spirits associated with winter. This so-called cleansing was done via bonfires and — to some unknown extent — the burning of witches.

Today it is largely a "let's celebrate the end of winter" festival, often put on by city governments and municipalities across the country. Central to the event is a large bonfire — now often supplemented with smaller fires so that people can roast an assortment of foods. The largest festival in Prague this year featured a dance group, a stage performance, a beauty contest — think witches, or anti-witch — a rock concert and, er, um, a roller-blading contest. And, of course, some people dress up — like the young woman pictured here. Alas, her broom was apparently broken — as she was left waiting for a city bus, like everyone else.

(Photo by Bruce Konviser)