November 17 will be celebrated online this year, but its meaning is more important than ever

Organizers of the traditional street parties have put together a safe program to be watched from home.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston
Published on 10.11.2020 15:48 (updated on 10.11.2020)

Celebrations of the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution will be largely moving online and broadcast over Czech Television this year due to the coronavirus situation.

November 17 is the 31st anniversary of the events in 1989 leading to the end of communist rule in former Czechoslovakia. Freedom and Democracy Day, as it is officially called, is a national holiday.

The anniversary will be commemorated with an online program of live broadcasts and recorded material. A few activities outside the online environment are also planned. Significant buildings will be illuminated in state colors and a charity Velvet Brunch will be available for delivery.

A list of some of online programs and streams will be available at the Díky, že můžem website and on Facebook. There will also be a large televised concert organized by Festival svobody and the annual Memory of Nations Awards, organized by civic group Post Bellum. Most of the programs will be in Czech.

The organizers say that that people should not forget about the national holiday just because of the pandemic.

“I believe that in these challenging times, as a society, we can celebrate and honor November 17 from the safety of our homes. The values of the Velvet Revolution remain relevant, if not more now. The only way to fully experience freedom as soon as possible depends on the common solidarity and responsibility of each of us,” Korzo Národní director Daniel Peřina said in a press release.

Korzo Národní is one of several groups that have worked together over the past seven years to organize the joint celebration.

“Freedom is also a responsibility. We followed this motto during preparations for this year. I would like November 17 to be a day of peaceful celebration from home and a special time for each of us to reflect. We can all stop, at least for a moment, and realize the power of the ideas of the Velvet Revolution. Although for different reasons, we also now feel the fragility of our freedom,” he added.

Many of the key events on November 1989 took place at Prague’s Národní třída and Wenceslas Square. In the past, both were closed off to traffic so they could be the center of celebrations.

Candles on Národní třída
Candles on Národní třída in 2019. (photo: Raymond Johnston - Expats.cz)

Lighting a candle in front of the memorial of outstretched hands on Národní třída has been a tradition. The organizers have come up with a way for participate without their personal presence on the spot.

“We are preparing a live broadcast from around the memorial. For a voluntary contribution, people will be able to light a candle from a distance and attach a message with their name. We will print it out and stick it on a real candle, which one of our volunteers will then place next to the memorial,” Perina said.

People are asked to watch from home, and not to attend this or other events in person.

In addition to live streams there will also be online access to historical lectures and recordings related to the Velvet Revolution. For social media users, a new virtual filter with a ribbon in the colors of the Czech flag will be available for Instagram.

 At the symbolic time of 17 hours and 11 minutes, singer Aneta Langerová will perform “Prayer for Marta” (Modlitba pro Martu ) from the balcony of the National Theatre in Prague. The song will also be heard all over the city thanks to a loud speaker and siren network. The initiative will also joined by several radio stations as well as Czech Television.

Buildings on Národní třída.
Buildings on Národní třída lit up in 2019. (photo: Dikyzemuzem.cz)

There will also be the traditional Concert for the Future, organized by Festival svobody. The concert will take place without spectators on November 17 from 4:30 pm to 9:30 pm. Part of the concert will take place on Wenceslas Square, but there will be no amplification on site and barriers will be placed to stop people from congregating. The other part of the concert will take place indoors.

Musical guests will include The Plastic People of the Universe, Ondřej Gregor Brzobohatý, Jiří Schmitzer, Tomáš Klus, Ewa Farna, Iva Bittová, Ivan Hlas Trio, Klára Vytisková & Albert Černý, Michal Horák, Megaphone, and Sofian Medjmedj.

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During the broadcast, 1,000 candles will be lit in front of the Wenceslas Square stage. The event will be broadcast on Czech Television and also streamed live over Festival svobody’s Facebook page.

Concert for the Future in 2019.
Concert for the Future in 2019. (photo: Festival svobody, Petr Klapper)

More information on events and initiatives organized by Festival svobody can be found on their website and Facebook page.

The civic group Post Bellum invites people to watch the Memory of Nations Awards, which will be broadcast from the National Theatre on November 17 at 8 pm on TV at ČT 2 and on radio at ČRo Plus. Five people who have told their story for the Memory of the Nation archive and who have shown in their lives that honor, freedom and human dignity are not just empty words will receive awards.

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In addition, Post Bellum is preparing two online exhibitions about students who made history and on the events of 1989.  

Events will also take place across the Czech Republic. More than 20 buildings will light up in white, red and blue across the Czech Republic. Buildings in Prague include Prague Castle, the Petřín Tower and the Dancing House. The Mahen Theater in Brno and the Moravian Theater in Olomouc will also light up.

"With this gesture, we would like to, with safety and dignity, remind people of the values of the Velvet Revolution and the importance of freedom. Above all we want to send a nice and positive message to society. We all need hope now,” Lukáš Černý, chairman of the association Díky, že můžem, said.

In a separate action, Prague city officials will display Czech flags from light poles on Wenceslas Square starting on the afternoon of Friday, November 13, until the end of the holiday celebrations.

In cooperation with Breakfaststory, people throughout Prague can pre-order a Velvet Brunch with delivery. Each portion purchased will also support giving a meal to selected seniors in need. To supporting the project, people can go to the Breakfaststory e-shop and choose one of the three menus.