the country in which i currently live, the czech republic (or as some are trying to make happen, “czechia”), is currently not known for being a very religious country. they certainly have had their share of religious leaders and famous reformers (such as jan hus and jan of nepomuk), but communism pretty effectively killed off what dedication to religion remained, and the country currently stands as one of the most areligious in europe.
which is then interesting why last year, in 2016, the parliament successfully voted to make good friday (or rather as czechs call it, big friday – velký
pátek) a public holiday, which will officially go into effect for everyone this coming friday. long holidays for everyone! huzzah!
that shouldn’t make a lot of sense, but easter in this country is revered not only for religious reasons, but rather as a spring rite of passage. who doesn’t enjoy a long holiday at the chata or a nice easter lunch with babička? (note: going to the grandparents’ house is generally the number one pastime of my students during school holidays, but i digress)
so, i’ve hung around these parts long enough by now to generally learn all about the nice czech easter traditions here, from the obvious to the not so obvious….
imagine our surprise our very first easter here when alex was presented with a giant white box before easter holidays. when i opened it, i squealed – it’s a giant lamb! lamb cakes, as i’ve taken to calling them (or beránek) are practically a standard in every kitchen before this holiday. you’d be hard-pressed to find a family not baking a lamb cake around the easter holidays! lamb and rabbit molds are in shops everywhere this time of year, as are the typical chocolate easter bunnies. (but seriously, buy those things early because there is nothing to be found the week of easter in shops!)
additionally, mazanec (easter bread) is also widely baked or purchased and eaten. this bread, i’ve been told, is essentially the exact same loaf as the christmas vánočka
bread, but just in a simple circular loaf form.
i recently found this advertisement that recently came in the mail quite laughable; the front page seeming to show all the czech easter classics: we got tulips (alright), lamb cake (yep), a sliced ham (uh-huh), and…. big ol’ bottle of tullamore dew?
why would a giant bottle of irish whiskey be in the center of this advert? upon investigation, the two reasons for this would be, a) obviously, it’s a holiday weekend. drinking with family and friends, and perhaps the biggest reason, b) easter monday festivities. it still is beyond me why easter monday is much more celebrated here than easter sunday, but you’ll need to keep some liquor at the ready because that’s the day the village (or neighborhood) boys come around, with their easter sticks (woven willow branches, adorned with ribbons called pomlázka) to whack the girls and women of the household.
beating the women on easter. i know.
actually, the reasons behind it seem kind of sweet and endearing. to lightly ‘thwack’ the women with a (fresh!! always fresh!!) willow branch is said to bring them good health, longevity, and apparently most importantly, fertility. in return, the women should present the visitors with painted eggs, chocolates, and liquor. hence, the tullamore dew.
i myself was thoroughly confused my second easter here when i unassumingly sat outside in the garden reading on a perfectly normal easter monday afternoon only to be ambushed by our neighbors with the
pomlázka. it definitely made for a more unforgettable easter monday than most!
another fun tradition: as each day of the week of easter seems to have a special name, thursday’s is called “green thursday” (zelený čtvrtek, in english, maundy thursday) and the tradition goes that one should aim for eating loads of green things (cabbage, leafy greens, peas, other spring vegetables) this day. however, we are in the czech republic. this means green beer, and i’m not talking about the dyed atrocity us americans know from our rowdy st. patrick’s day celebrations.
in order to follow this green thursday tradition, the starnobrno brewery created a special green beer, produced only at this time of year and is naturally colored with a secret blend of herbs. it actually tasted very normal to me, but if you’d like to taste a more herbal-tasting green beer, might i direct you to one of my favorite prague breweries?
besides all of the egg dishes that must then be made on or after easter to use up all of those eggs, that’s about the run-down for the easter situation in the czech republic. i am really looking forward to a nice cabin holiday in the forest with hopefully good weather – crossing all fingers and toes, here!
this post is a part of wanderful wednesday.
(beer photo via)