An Easter Beating

An early Easter has come and gone with an inordinate amount of snow, plenty of baking, Easter egg decorating, time off work, a beating, and a few splashes of perfume.  Before you take concern at the kind of people in my life, let me reassure you that beating is a normal part of Czech festivities, but let me start at the beginning, for there are a few differences between Czech and American Easter celebrations.  

First of all, I left school Wednesday late afternoon/early evening with a five-day weekend before me.  In the Czech Republic, Maundy Thursday (Zelený čtvrtek or "Green Thursday" in Czech), Good Friday (Velký pátek, or "Big/Great Friday" in Czech), Holy Saturday (Bílá sobota or "White Saturday"), Easter Sunday, and Easter Monday are all holidays.  

Zelený čtvrtek ("Green Thursday"), after my weekly private Czech lesson, I had a spontaneous chat with a friend in the city square where an Easter market was being set up.  Soon I was on public transit on my way to see Majka and her children.  She'd invited me for lunch, mentioning that spinach would be a part of the menu according to tradition.  As I sat at the table with a large plate full of potatoes smothered with spinach "sauce", I finally asked about the tradition.  How could I have missed the obvious: on "Green Thursday", something green is usually eaten.

Velký pátek ("Big/Great Friday") I spent having a haircut and then meeting another close friend for the majority of the day.  These appointments kept me from attending any Good Friday service, though they are held at many churches here much like in the States.

 Bílá sobota ("White Saturday") I went to my friend Jana's for some Easter baking.  Together/in turns with the attendance to the 6-month-old Štěpan, we made two baked Easter goodies.  Our plan was to make velikonoční beránek (literally "Easter lamb") and mazanec (a sweet bread/cake, some translations venture to call it a hot-cross bun).  We began with the velikonoční beránek (see above photos), which can be made from lemon or carrots, and we opted for carrots.  I had given some chocolate chips to Jana last year, which we threw into the batter instead of raisins.  Once the dough was ready, we poured it into a lamb form and the excess into a circular form.  The symbolism of the lamb is, of course, a symbol of Jesus, the sacrificial Lamb.  

The mazanec was formed into a loaf with a cross cut into the top of it (I neglected to take a photo of it). (I later ate pieces toasted with butter, a delightful highlight to the raisin-laden sweet bread.)  I spent much of the day with Jana, and at one point even fell asleep for a short nap.  When I woke up, I walked into the kitchen to see that Jana had already worked her magic on the lamb:

Sunday I went to church, not without escaping some hardship along the way. 
Left to right: view from my flat, my tram stop, and in front of my church Easter Sunday 2013.

We had 40 cm of snow over the weekend (16 inches, and 19 inches in the mountains).  Nonetheless, Christ was/is risen(!) and the service was very welcome.  After the service, I enjoyed a spontaneous snowball fight in the parking lot before wading through the snow to the tram:

Josh and I were temporarily delayed at the tram stop when a tram plow got stuck in the snow.  We  finally got onto the tram and to his place where we joined his roommates for some food and an internet-stream of an American Easter service.  After waiting half an hour in the falling snow for a tram, I finally got home and set to dying Easter eggs.

Almost home.
Normally, this is where the Easter celebrations stop in the States, but in the largely atheistic Czech Republic, the Easter holiday hadn't really begun, for it is Easter Monday that makes the Czech Easter so distinctive.  It was to be my first Easter Monday in my new hometown.  The traditions Easter Monday are pagan.  Traditionally Monday morning women/girls are startled awake by the men/boys in their life, who may drag them to the bathtub and dowse them with cold water.  Stinky perfume may follow.  With or without water/perfume, the men can't celebrate without being equipped with their hand-woven or store-bought pomlázky, or whips.  These ribbon-laden whips are supposed to transfer their life (they're traditionally made from willow) into the women, bestowing them with fertility, health, and beauty.  The women, grateful for such a gift, then give men kraslice--decorated Easter eggs--or chocolate eggs.  The older men often receive a shot of plum brandy.

Velikonoční p
ondělí (Easter Monday) morning, my roommate had the plan to have some girls over for crepes.  By the time I woke (men didn't drag me out of bed), she was well on her way with the preparations and the girls began to come over.  I joined them in the kitchen, and soon our first male visitor came in.  One girl quickly stole his pomlázka, so he ran around first with his "essense of spring" (ie perfume) and dowsed each of us.  Then he searched for his whip, and when he finally obtained it, he quickly rapped each of us on the rear as he sped through the following verse:

Hody hody doprovody,
dejte vejce malovaný,  
give a dyed egg
nedáte-li malovaný,
if you don't give a dyed egg
dejte aspoň bílý,
at least give a white one
slepička Vám snese jiný.
a hen can give you something else

He, however, substituted "vejce malovaný" in the lyrics for "palačinky" (crepes).  When he came to me, he began the beating but began in English, "Uh, happy Easter, and I don't know what to say . . . "  He took a crepe and some eggs from us before speeding away for his next victim.  Later a couple more men came with their pomlázky.  Stinky perfume again adorned us, and our final visitor changed it up and put snow down our necks.  Zuzka (my roommate) having nice friends, my first at-home Easter Monday was fairly tame, and while I don't know that I'd want to pass this tradition onto my sons, I'll gladly accept the health and beauty the pomlázky.  (I mean, check out the photo below post-whipping . . . )


Popular Posts