This year will be my third Easter in the Czech Republic since I moved here in February 2013. Last year I spent most of my time preparing for my baptism and confirmation into the Catholic Church, something I had infact been preparing for my entire life. So this year I have been able to focus more time on exploring the delights that Easter celebrations bring in the Czech Republic. And I have to say they are interesting to say the least.
Back at home in the UK, Easter consisted of anxiously waiting to crack open our chocolate eggs on Easter Sunday and attending the long Easter Vigil on the Sunday Morning. In my small home town you’ll be lucky to find small children’s craft workshops and a man dressed up as a giant Easter bunny.
In Prague, things are kicked up a notch or two and despite being a relatively non religious country, they celebrate Easter in style with a few bizarre and unusual traditions of their own! Here a few of my favorite parts of celebrating Easter in Prague.
Easter Markets in Prague
Starting two weeks before Easter, Prague’s Old Town Square, Wenceslas Square and the Square of the Republic become temporary homes to the Easter Market stalls. Featuring more than 90 stands, you’ll expect to find hand made Czech handcrafts, beautiful hand painted eggs, wooden toys, puppets and various other crafted Easter decorations. If your in Prague over Easter its definitely worth a visit.
Alongside the stalls are also some fantastic local food stalls including spit roasted pork serving Prague Ham rolls, the famous sweet trdelnik and a range of grilled sausage and hot dogs. And a whole load of Pivo to wash it down with.
Younger visitors will also be entertained with small petting zoos with rabbits and guinea pigs as well as craft stalls where children can decorate their own eggs and candles.
Green Thursday (Maundy Thursday)
There are many stories as to why Maundy Thursday is nicknames Green Thursday in the Czech Republic. Some believe it to be linked to the strict fast Christians are meant to partake on Maundy Thursday, eating only one meal free from any meat, thus allowing for only vegetables to be consumed. Therefore Green Thursday being named after the green vegetables eaten. In the Czech Republic this is also celebrated by the production of green beer produced only once a year for Green Thursday by the Starobrno Brewery in Brno.
Green Thursday (Zelený čtvrtek) is also the day when young boys take to the streets of their local villages in the evening, equipped with rattles to chase away evil spirits. Made from wood, these rattles were a symbol of chasing away Judas, he apostle that we Christians believe betrayed Jesus Christ. The same procedure repeats on Good Friday (Velký pátek) and one more time on White Saturday (Bílá sobota) when the young boys don’t only walk through the village but they stop at every house in the morning and rattle until they’re given money, which they then split between themselves.
Easter Sunday in the Czech Republic is traditionally spent preparing for Easter Monday. Whether its the family mother in preparing the final touches and collecting final supplies for the family meal on Monday or the young girls decorating eggs in preparation for the traditional pomlázkas (more on that in a moment).
Easter Monday – The day of the pomlázka
Probably one of the most strangest traditions of Easter in the Czech Republic. Easter Monday is the celebration of pomlázkas a pagan tradition. Traditionally young pussywillow twigs are tied together to make a wooden whips. Then young boys (and men) would team up and parade around their village visiting as many houses as possible to lightly whip girls on the backs of their legs. It is a sign of good health although the original meaning was to chase evil spirits away. While whipping, the boys sing an Easter Carol in exchange for a painted egg in return for a ribbon on his stick.
As the boys progressed through the village, their bags fill up with eggs and their pomlázkas are adorned with more and more colorful ribbons….Or at least that how it used to be.
These days eggs are replaced with alcohol (or chocolate for children). Although it sounds like a horrific tradition to many expats, many women in the Czech Republic would be mortified if they weren’t whipped. However strange it maybe, the pomlázka tradition is still one to be embraced and you can even buy your own whipping stick at stalls and florists around villages and in cities ready for Easter Monday!
Easter is one of the best times of year to visit the Czech Republic, especially Prague. The weather isn’t so cold (normally) and the streets are not as busy as the summer. With the Easter Markets in town you have one more reason to visit this magical city. So what are you waiting for?
Where are you spending you Easter Holidays?