Spank the Baby! Easter Volume

1. April 2018
Czech Easter is a big deal. Controversial. Loved and hated. And also magic. Let’s find out what “pomlázka” is, how a decorated Easter egg looks like, and how a bit of symbolic violence (supposedly) makes women beautiful and healthy all the year round.
Spank the Baby! Easter Volume

Easter is the second most important holiday in Czechia. That might seem a bit odd: such a humbug around a Christian holiday in the most atheist country in Europe. But this doesn’t prevent us from celebrating Easter at all! We just do it our way. A wee bit pagan way.

Even though the weather might be still capricious in this time of year, Easter is a celebration of the coming spring for us. We bid farewell to winter and welcome awakening life. Does this sound a bit too esoteric? It can’t be helped. We have celebrated spring way earlier before Christianity came here with its Easter. And from our point of view, the worship of old Slavic gods was a bit of magic, after all.

Monday We Like

Despite the fact that for Christians Easter culminates on Sunday when Jesus Christ rose from the dead, the main part of Czech Easter happens on Monday. Maybe because in the past people got over their Christian duties during the weekend and on Monday there was finally time for spring festivities.

Yes. That’s why you don’t have to go to work in #brnoregion on Monday. Not even to school. Thanks to Easter we get two lovely days off (apart from Monday also on Good Friday). Not that we don’t like to work. We are supposed to be among the most hardworking nations. But… how shall we put it… we also love to relax and have a good time. 

We Don’t Go to Work, but Still We Get Up Early!

Easter Monday is probably the only day in the year when young men voluntarily get up early. In some villages of the #brnoregion they even don elaborate costumes, but whatever they wear, they go from door to door to trick-or-treat and to beat women with “pomlázka” whips. Is this the violence we talked about earlier? Yes. Or rather yes and no. This is just where the magic begins.

Those whips are braided from pussy-willow twigs and decorated with colourful ribbons. Pussy-willow twigs are bearers of fresh spring energy due to the sap flowing in them. And then, when men beat women with whips, this energy is supposed to enter the women in question and is supposed to guarantee their beauty and health for the whole next year (and who wouldn’t want to be beautiful and healthy, ladies…?). 

Give Us a Painted One

For all their “care”, women give men an egg – a symbol of life and fertility. The eggs (called “kraslice” in Czech) are usually painted and decorated by various techniques – the traditional range from dyeing by natural colours or decorating by wax, straw or lace. Usually, full eggs are given since they contain the germ of a life, but you might also encounter blown eggs. Mainly because some decorations are so beautiful that people just want to keep them for as long as possible (or at least until some butter-fingers break their fragile shell).

Since the weather at Easter usually is still cold, the trick-or-treaters at #brnoregion get a shot of slivovitz as a welcome drink (also to reinvigorate them after all the morning exertions). Before they reach the end of the village, they are quite often rather… erm… tired and emotional.

What to Do With All Those Eggs?

You might read about traditional Easter customs here and there, but tourist guides usually won’t tell you about the further fate of all the eggs that trick-or-treaters received. Those eggs tend to be boiled because they are less susceptible to destruction than the raw ones. But what is the poor trick-or-treater supposed to do with them, if he brings home ten or twenty of them in his basket?

At Easter typical Easter dishes are made, like a lamb on spinach, Easter lamb cake (a sweet dessert in the shape of a lamb) or mazanec (sweet bread with rum-soaked raisins and dried fruit and topped with slivered almonds). But perhaps the most typical “after-Easter” dish is the egg spread, utilizing deliciously all those collected eggs. Expect its typical smell in all offices on Tuesday…

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