Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter can be very naughty!

Easter Monday (Pondělí velikonoční) is the day we tend to celebrate Easter.  It's a day off from work (amen!) as well as the day of the pomlázka!  

In the morning, men boys walk from door to door to spank girls on their legs with their whip.  The whipping is rather symbolic, you see.  The Easter whip, the pomlázka, comes from the word "pomladit", which means  "make younger".  It's believed that the freshness, youth and strength of the twigs is passed to the women on this day.  Thus, every woman wants to be whipped in order to keep her health and beauty during the coming year.  Unvisited females may even feel offended, therefore it's almost a duty for all boyfriend and husbands to whip their woman with the Easter whip!

The boys accompany the whipping with a special Easter carol, usually asking for an egg or two.  The girls "reward" them with an Easter egg or tie a ribbon on their whip (um, I am making this out to be very, very naughty).

The more eggs or ribbons a boy has, the better (

For boys men, instead of eggs the "reward" is a shot of alcohol, mostly homemade brandy.  And of course, the point is to visit quite possibly all of the girls in town (that's a lot of random ribbons on their whip), thus around noon, groups of happy  ecstatic men can be seen in the streets singing Easter carols and chasing women.

But don't think the girls don't get to have any fun!  In the afternoon, they get their revenge by pouring a bucket of ice cold water on any male they wish!

My man's whip is ready to go...and I'm looking forward to it!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday and it's many Czech superstitions

In the Czech Republic, Great Friday (Velký pátek) is the popular name for what most call "Good Friday".  Velký pátek is a day of fasting for Roman Catholics who will not eat meat until Saturday evening after the church bells start ringing on their legendary return from Rome.

 On Velký pátek, we prepare our holiday bread (mazanec), which must not be cut or eaten until the priest says, "Christ is risen!" (Kristus vstal z mrtvých!) on Easter Sunday.  It is a universal custom to make a new loaf of bread with the sign of the cross before cutting it in order to bless it and thank God for it.  Bread baked on Velký pátek - if hardened in the oven - can be kept all year, and its presence protects the house from fire.

There are many (surprise surprise!) superstitions associated with Velký pátek.  Although Praguers have gotten away from some of the annual traditions, people in small villages still practice time-honored rituals.  These customs, dating back to at least the first century, are designed to bring health and happiness to the participants throughout the following year.

We're a superstitious bunch aren't we!?  I have to admit that I won't allow laundry to hang dry on Velký pátek, and I also won't eat meat, but these traditions are a little harder to adhere to:
  • Women carry out their quilts to air out in order to chase illnesses out of the house.
  • Some believe that water dipped before sunrise without a spoken word has healing power and will stay pure all year.
  • People get up very early on this day and hurry down to the brook (or stream... or river) where they wash themselves with cold water and then cross the brook with bare legs because they believe that this ensures good health for the entire next year.
  • People also take their daughters down to wash at the well so that they'll be pretty and well spoken for.
 It's also believed that water sprites come out onto dry land on Velký pátek.  Water Sprites are a story for another day, but if you come across this guy...

A few more interesting beliefs and superstitions are:
  • Work.  Just don't do it!!  I'm not sure if it's out of genuine respect for the religious festival, or from superstitious fears that to do it will somehow bring misfortune.  According to an old Czech saying, "Na Velký pátek zemi nehýbej", which translates to, "On Great Friday, do not move the soil."
  • Supposedly, the weather for the whole year is foretold by the weather on Velký pátek.  For instance, if it rains on Velký pátek, then the rest of the year will be dry.  Another saying is "Velký pátek deštivý dělává rok žíznivý", which means, "A rainy Great Friday makes for a thirsty year."
  • On Velký pátek, according to legend, anyone can look upon the sun without being blinded by its glare 
 There are several legends associated with Velký pátek as well, and the one I find romantic yet disturbing is this one:  High up in the mountains amidst the cliffs there is a stone figure of a maiden.  She is seated and holds in her lap an unfinished shirt, also of stone.  Eash year, on Velký pátek, at the hour of the Passion, she sews a stitch:  one year, one stitch.  When the shirt is finished, the world will end.  Everything under the sun will die, and Judgement Day will be at hand. 
Let's hope she never finishes that shirt!!!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Get out your rattles, boys!

Not that rattle!  This rattle...

Photo courtesy of The Easter Project

Yes, what looks like a wheelbarrow is actually a rattle said to chase away evil spirits.  And being that today is Zelený čtvrtek (Green Thursday), all you males out there get to keep this tradition alive.

What?  You don't own one of these? GASP!  Any old rattle will do... now go make some noise!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

I have returned from the throes of the sea...

Well, not really anything so severe, much to my relief.  My profession took over, and I vow to NOT let that happen again.  Changes are being made because no one controls ones destiny but oneself.

Sorry to get all deep on you.

On a lighter note, Easter is here!  I love the "springtime" feeling that comes along with Easter...the warmer weather (hopefully) and seeing the colorful tulips, hyacinths and daffodils... how can one not be happy?

I'll be baking an Easter mazanec again, as well as trying my hand at the beránek:

We'll see how that goes.

Apparently, the tradition of baking this sweet lamb goes way, way back.  They say that the Jewish folk of ancient times prepared bread in the shape of a lamb.  And yes, I do own the mold to bake said beránek.  When I stumbled upon the mold last year you would have thought I won the lottery.  If this beránek turns out well (ie, in one piece) and I can keep Czech tradition alive, well then in a way, I did.