For some people Easter represent a longer weekend and also a legitimate reason to get drunk with friends, but we Czechs do have a few interesting Easter traditions, despite the fact the majority of the population isn't religious. Most of these traditions come from pagans, some of them are similar in the whole world, some of them exist in the Czech and Slovak lands only. So what should you do to survive a Czech Easter? Read on!
Probably the most visible are the colored or otherwise decorated eggs. There are many techniques how to decorate the eggs, to color the eggs you can either use food coloring or (more natural) onion peels, to decorate them you can use wax, stickers or basically anything that comes to your mind.
Lamb and "mazanec"
The traditional meal is a lamb which is, however, very rarely eaten nowadays and has therefore been substituted by a cake made of sweet dough, usually with raisins or candied fruit, in the form of a lamb. You can also bake "mazanec" which is similar to the hot cross bun, although not spiced.
Maundy (Green) Thursday
Maundy Thursday is called Green Thursday in Czech and you are (surprisingly) supposed to eat something green. Starobrno brewery started a tradition on their own and have been brewing green beer since 2006 which you can get only on Maundy Thursday at selected places . The ingredient that makes the beer green is a well-kept secret but it should be some herbs.
The bells in churches ring for the last time on Maundy Thursday and then keep silent until Easter vigil. Noon and morning and evening prayer are announced by boys with ratchets instead of bells. This custom has its origin in pagan traditions as well, as the old Slavs used the ratchets for rituals that should have protected the village and their crops.
Good Fridays used to be bank holidays but unfortunately, they no longer are. Children have a day off on Thursday and Friday, but adults have to work. Which is a pity since a tradition forbids a wide range of works, such as digging or moving the ground, working in the field or garden, bake, do the laundry or sweep. You are also forbidden to give or receive gifts on a Good Friday. A borrowed thing could bring a curse on your house!
Holy (White) Saturday
Since Holy Saturday means the end of the Lent, the main customs include baking buns and Easter lambs and boys with ratchets walking around the village and getting some little cash at every door of every household (this of course doesn't happen in the cities). As it is the day of preparation for Easter, this is the day when the eggs are decorated.
Easter Day, or Easter Sunday, is the biggest Christian holiday of the year and therefore it was customary to bring the pastry (lambs or hot cross buns) to the church to sanctify them and eat them at home, with members of the family. A part of the consecrated cakes should be given to the well, the fields and the garden so that the next year is good and fertile.
This is the day Czech girls don't like at all! Boys are allowed to whip the girls with a stick made from weeping willow branches that they make and girls are supposed to give them treats for that, such as colored or chocolate eggs, candy and alcohol. In some regions the girls can pour water on the boys if they manage to catch them outside after noon.
This is by no means an excuse for domestic violence (the whipping doesn't and shouldn't hurt), the pagans believed that this was to bring the women and girls health and beauty for the entire following year and there are also some hidden symbols of fertility and sexuality. That's why women don't have any other choice than to comply :-)
(Pictures by LotusHead and claudelu, sxc.hu)