One of the things that you may not know about the Czech Republic is that it's one of the least religious countries in the World. As a result, Easter is not celebrated as we may know it.
Easter Monday in the Czech Republic is more connected with the welcoming of spring and celebrating a new life and a new year.
Many of the traditional celebrations of Easter are still practised throughout the country (although maybe not quite so much in Prague, where it seems to be hammed up for the tourists).
Whereas in many parts of Western Europe, Easter consists of Good Friday, Easter Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Here in the Czech Republic we have Ugly Wednesday, Green Thursday, Good Friday, White Saturday, Easter Sunday
and Easter Monday.
Thursday - Sunday are usually spent in preparation for the main holiday on Easter Monday.
I honestly don't have any clue where the names come from or the significance on the colours (sorry!
) But what I can do is tell you the traditions to look out for during your visit.
Or otherwise known as kraslice,
these are little-decorated eggs that represent the beginning of new life. Traditionally, the girls paint and decorate them and they're then given to the boys on Easter Monday. There are no limitations on what you can use to decorate the eggs, although straw, onion peel and beeswax are the most traditional. Nowadays, many people also use watercolour paint and picture stickers.
As someone living in the Czech Republic, I'm not going to lie, this is the custom that I'm most nervous of. Boys pick willow branches, braid them together and decorate it with ribbons to create a kind of whip called at pomlazka
and whip the girls on Easter Monday to bring them 'health and youth'. Apparently, the boys don't even have to know the girl and they just whip any girl they see on the streets! In some villages they also douse the girls with water. Honestly, I don't know which one I'd rather... *rolls eyes*
The most traditional food at Easter time are lamb or rabbit served with nettle stuffing for the main meal. Cakes or gingerbread in the shape of lambs and baked goods (judases) covered with honey are usually served as desert. Oh, and something within the meal has to be made from eggs. You can't not have eggs at Easter!!
On Easter Monday, make sure you wear something red along with lots of bright colours. This is to symbolise the joy, health, and happiness that comes hand in hand with the Spring.
In Prague, there are a few open-air markets for you to buy some kraslice
either to use yourself or as a souvenir. You can also find some of the traditional delicacies such as the cakes, gingerbreads and biscuits. Seriously, try some of these. They're delicious. Czech sweets are the best. There will also be open air performances celebrating Czech folklore throughout the city.
In some towns and villages, shots of plum brandy are given as a reward by the girls to the guys that whipped them (seriously, what is up with this country?!?!)
so by early afternoon it will be pretty normal to be seeing groups of boys happily merry wandering down the streets. Although, as a result - Easter is one of the happiest times of the year in the Czech Republic!
Although not so much in the big cities such as Prague, if you find yourself in any small towns or villages from Green Thursday
to White Saturday
you'll see the boys of the village wandering around with wooden rattles called (řehtačka)
singing an Easter carol. This is to chase away Judas, and following the olden traditions of summoning the believers to church. They also stop at peoples houses and rattle away until they are given money.
I hope that this has given you slightly more of an insight into what Easter is like over here in the Czech Republic. Basically, to summarise what I've said: girls, you're most likely going to get whipped
and boys, you get to whip girls with braids.
And most importantly DRINK AND EAT DELICIOUS FOOD.
But don't be d**ks about it though. It's a traditional custom here with a symbolic meaning behind it. Don't use it as a way to just whip and perv on girls. That's just not very nice.
By Angharad Owen, spending Easter huddled indoors to avoid whips.