by Hanča Stolz
As many other Christian traditions, even Easter is closely connected with previous Pagan traditions. Therefore, the origin of some customs is not clear or is somehow linked to both roots. Nevertheless, nowadays we are thinking about Easter more like it is a Christian tradition and even the name for Easter in Czech language “Velikonoce” comes from velká (English: Great) and the word noc (English: Night). So, the celebration of the great night when Jesus Christ was risen.
Based on tradition every day in the week before Easter, the Big Week, has its own special name and its own tradition. E.g. Monday…But one of the most famous one is The Maundy Thursday. In Czechia is this day called The Green Thursday. There are two theories talking about the origin of the name but the most probable is that the original German name Grein Donnerstag (Grade Thursday) was twisted to Grün Donnerstag (Green Thursday). There are some customs which relate to green colour even though that’s not based on any event in the past or any tradition.
The most famous is probably green beer which you can find in almost every pub all around the country that night. It was originally made by adding herbs and it had dark colour. Nevertheless, these days most of the breweries are colouring the beer artificially and its colour is then bright and vibrant.
However, back to the original tradition which relates to church. Bells in each church are hushed as a sign of mourning. To explain the silence of bells it is said that the bells fly to Rome and return on Easter morning. Why?
According to the fact that church bells were in the past the most important source of time information or any warnings in the village it was necessary to replace their sound. Though young boys took a wooden rattle and form a group, walk through the village, rattling their rattles vigorously, so the noise can be heard from afar. This custom is also sometimes explained it is done to chase Judas (if it is Christian point of view) or to chase every evil (in Pagan point of view).
Someone might think that we have quite violent Easter customs but the opposite is true. Guys are trying their best to fulfil ladies’ wishes and make them younger and abridge them of illnesses and laziness. Let me explain this a bit closer.
Young willow twigs are thought to bring health and youth to anyone who is whipped with them. Therefore, some of them are cut and the whip is knitted from them. It is made from eight twigs and the way how is it knitted is similar to basket edges weaving.
And now back to the topic. Guys think that they are helping women to be happier in the next year so ladies need to give them something in return, of course. The original reward was eggs, the symbol of a fertility. Nowadays chocolate is used more frequently or shot of alcohol if the caroller is adult. The carollers are supposed to come to girl’s house before noon and say a poem while whipping about why is he lashing the lady (or better rejuvenate her) and what he wants in return.
Ladies can after noon douse men with water because they came late for women’s rejuvenation, which is the only way how to make this custom a bit fairer at least.
But even dousing was originally men’s task and it was as well as whipping supposed to keep or even improve women’s fertility and health.
There are some other small customs which are done during Easter such as baking Easter Lamb and many more. However, I mentioned just the most famous. For more information or different point of view you can read e.g. the articles listed here:
Want to know more?
Briefly summarized Czech traditions:
Slovak and a bit of Czech tradition: