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Easter

Easter 2018 and 2019

Easter celebrations in Czech Republic are hugely based on Christian traditions. Both Good Friday and Easter Monday are public holidays.

YearDateDayHoliday
201830 MarFriGood Friday
2 AprMonEaster Monday
201919 AprFriGood Friday
22 AprMonEaster Monday
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Although the Czech Republic was a part of Czechoslovakia from the end of World War I to the end of the Cold War, historically, it has often been its own nation like it is again today. The three regions that make up the Czech Republic are Bohemia, Moravia, and a portion of Silesia. Surrounding this central European nation are Germany, Austria, and Poland, and its population is some 10.5 million strong.

The Czech Republic has long been labeled “tolerant and even indifferent” in regard to religious beliefs, although it was once a much more strongly religious country than it is today. In 2011, a third of the population admitted to having no religion at all, and many more refused to answer the question. Only 10 percent identified as Catholic, one percent as Protestant, and nine percent as of some other faith. Additionally, in 2010, a mere 16 percent said they believed in the existence of God, making the Czech Republic one of the most secular nations in all Europe.

During Communist rule, Easter was suppressed and only the celebration of the arrival of spring was allowed. Since 1989, people are more aware again of the Christian roots of Easter, but the holiday is still celebrated in a very much secular tone. There are, however, still many Czech Easter traditions to consider.

The Easter eggs that are painted and ornately decorated each season are the most notable symbol of a Czech Easter. The more ornate eggs are called “kraslice,” and it takes a good amount of skill to perfect the art. Geometric patterns are most common, but flowers and snow flakes are also common. Every color imaginable is used. Materials, besides paint, that are used include: bees wax, onion peels, straw, and stickers. These eggs are often given to young boys on Easter Monday by young girls who decorated them, and there are also many Easter egg hunts all over the country, including a national contest in Prague.

One unique Czech tradition is the forming of small, braided whips (“pomlazka”) out of pussywillow twigs. Since those whipped with pussywillows were once thought to gain health and youth, the practice remains of boys “symbolically whipping” the legs of young girls as the boys go through town caroling each Easter Monday. In earlier times, boys were expected to braid their own pussywillow whips, but today, the skill is something of a lost art. Therefore, pomlazka are a common item for sale in stores around Easter time.

Water was also once thought to bring health and youth just like pussywillows, and a tradition of dousing girls with water at Easter time continues alongside the pomlazka tradition.

Easter foods include rabbits, chicken, and lamb, but baked lamb is the most traditional meal of these three. However, these days, a “gingerbread lamb” is usually baked instead of an actual lamb. It is hard to say whether it was the price of lamb or the love of gingerbread that led to this innovation, but it is certainly a unique Czech custom.

The color of Easter, in the Czech Republic, is eminently red. Red is thought to be the color of life, joy, and health and a color that well symbolizes spring. However, other bright colors are commonly used as well.

On the days leading up to Easter, in some parts of the Czech Republic at least, the following activities traditionally take place:

  • On “Ugly Wednesday,” kids are let out of school so that they can spend time on making Easter beautiful.
  • On “Green Thursday,” the boys in the village will take a special wooden rattle and go through the village shaking them so the sound can be heard far away. This is supposed to scare Judas Iscariot away from the village.
  • On Good Friday, a repeat of the events of Green Thursday occur.
  • On “White Saturday,” it is the third day for village-wide rattling activities, only this time, the boys go door to door and shake the rattles. They are then given money by the householder, and they divide the “earnings” among themselves.
  • On Easter Sunday, preparations are made for Easter Monday. The girls need to paint their eggs, and the boys need to get ready for pomlazka.
  • On Easter Monday, pomlazka arrives, which is the culmination of the season and a remnant from the ancient, pagan past. At one time, sickness and evil spirits were thought to flee from the pussywillow twigs, but now the event is done strictly for fun. The boys sing as they gently whip with the pussywillows, and the girls put a decorated egg into some boy’s bag. The girls also tie ribbons on the pussywillows. By days’ end, the bags will be full of eggs, candy, and money, and the twigs will be full of colorful ribbons. Sometimes, a shot of plum brandy is given as a reward as well.

Some Easter events not to be missed by anyone visiting the Czech Republic at this time of year include:

  • In Prague, the largest Czech Easter market is held each year in Old Towne Square. There will be some 90 stalls selling traditional products and over 10,000 attendees. There will also be many cultural entertainment programs, music and dancing, and Easter egg decorating workshops for children.
  • Outside of Prague, in the smaller towns and villages, the Easter traditions hold sway most strongly. There you can see pomlazka and more in action more than in Prague. There are also many smaller Easter markets and museums that feature time-honored folk traditions.
  • The Czech Republic has many castles and chateaus that are visited around Easter time. Some of the most notable ones to visit include Krivoklat Castle, which you can reach via a steam-powered locomotive from Prague, the Silesian Chateau in Ostrava, and the Dacice Chateau with its Easter fair.

The events and the springtime weather make Easter a very popular time to visit the Czech Republic. Tourists should book early because of the business of the season. Also be sure to bring some warm clothing just in case since there are occasionally wintry intrusions into the warm, sunny Czech spring.