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Feather Knows Best

Czechs demonstrate the unbearable lightness of goose down.

Illustration Graham Roumieu

Prague

THE ONLY THING missing from the Old Town Square’s picture-perfect Christmas markets just before 8 p.m. on December 17 is a flurry of white stuff drifting gently to the ground. That is about to change, however.

Amid the throngs of tourists and locals perusing the stalls selling mulled wine and handicrafts below the square’s astronomical clock are several hundred people hiding feather pillows. And they aren’t planning on napping.

Five minutes before the hour, a whistle sounds, and the square explodes into a massive pillow-fighting free-for-all.

What astonished onlookers may not have realized is that they’d stumbled into a so-called “flash mob” event organized through Facebook. In its second successful year, the fight had seen nearly 3,000 sign up via the social networking site. The biting temperatures deterred all but the most dedicated, but the 60-second event still succeeded in taking over the square, however briefly. Some pillow-toting bandits were so enthusiastic—and had come sufficiently well- armed—that the eiderdown continued to fly half an hour later.

“It’s a brilliant idea: You can beat so many people with pillows!” participant Zdenek Hrebejk told local reporters, as surprised passersby watched with amusement, many documenting the event on their cameras and phones. “It’s the most original concept possible.”

As the mob dispersed, Old Town Square took on a lovely holiday appearance—providing no one looked too closely. “It’s a really nice atmosphere,” said student Blanka Havlickova. Of course, for the city workers left with the task of sweeping the square, the spectacle might have seemed somewhat less than magical. —FIONA GAZE

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