The Czech Republic is not a particularly religious country, thus Easter is generally more a celebration of the arrival of Spring, than any sort of religious holiday. Starting a week or two before Easter, traditional markets appear in towns and cities across the country, and here you can find many handmade arts and crafts. However, village life is where you can experience a traditional Czech Easter, culminating in boys whipping girls with a rod of willow on Easter Monday.
The days of Easter
The celebration of Easter officially begins on Ugly Wednesday (Škaredá středa), which is the day the schools finish for the holiday. On Green Thursday (Zelený čtvrtek), also referred to as Maundy Thursday, boys walk through their village in a group, each wielding a wooden rattle (řehtačka), the purpose of which is to generate lots of noise and scare away Judas, the apostle who was said to have betrayed Jesus Christ. This activity extends through Good Friday (Velký pátek) and into White Saturday (Bílá sobota) where they stop at various houses in the village collecting money; which is presumably a bribe to make them stop rattling. For adults, a more recent introduction is the Green Beer, a special batch brewed by Starobrno to celebrate Easter. This unique 13° beer has a vibrant green colour, and is known as Zelené pivo. You’ll find this in pubs and restaurants from the Thursday, although stocks usually last only a few days. If you’re in Czech Republic around this time it’s definitely worth trying for the novelty factor!
Now that Judas has been chased away, we move to Easter Sunday (Neděle velikonoční), at which point the boys prepare their pomlázkas, which are long whips braided from willow cuttings, whereas girls finish painting and decorating eggs.
Easter Monday (Pondělí velikonoční) is a national holiday and when the boys roam the village with their pomlázkas; the aim here is to whip girls on the legs (which can often be painful), an act which is said to chase away illness and bad spirits, and to maintain health, beauty and fertility during the coming year. In return, the girls provide gifts of hand painted eggs. or Slivovice if they’re older. Needless to say that many girls do not enjoy the Czech Easter traditions.
Easter markets are prevalent in town and city squares, and here you’ll find a variety of traditional arts and crafts, including decorative eggs, wooden toys and pomlázka. They’re also an excellent place to grab some food, such as trdelník, a sweet pastry coated in cinnamon and sugar, as well as the ubiquitous sausages and crisps. For drinks, you’ll have a choice of wine, beer, or warm medovina (honey wine); I recommend the latter! Markets usually run until Easter Monday, or occasionally longer in the larger cities. The biggest market is probably in Prague’s Old Town square, although there are several others throughout the city.