Easter in the Czech Tradition

3-4 2010 Aktuality English
obálka čísla

In the Czech Republic, as throughout the Christian world, Easter is an important religious festival. To remind us of the martyr ´s death and resurrection of Our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Of course, Easter is also connected with many folk-customs and superstitions that go back to pre-Christian times. For example on Easter Monday there is Pomlazka and painted eggs, young people pour water over each other, water symbolizes the regeneration of the power of life. In the past, people in Bohemia sent each other hazelhens during Easter, as reminders of the quails sent by God to feed the Israelites in the desert. The Pomlazka is an old custom which was very common. Young people whip each other with willow twigs plaited together and often with ribbons decorated and scarps of coloured cloth. This whip is called the Pomlazka and this is also the name for the usual Easter present given as a reward for whipping – Easter eggs. By whipping, the power of rejuvenated nature is passed on to live creatures. That is why it is mostly young girls who are whipped – so that they will stay brisk, healthy and cheerful, so that sipinsters will become younger and more prosperous, and even the cattle will be healthy and fertile.

Painted eggs are the symbol of the revival of nature and its productive forces in Spring, of the secret pattern of the new life. Just as a new creature sleeps in the eggs, the Mother Earth wakes up with the returning sun.

The decorated eggs of Moravian Slovakia surpass those of Bohemia, which are usually red, not only with their colours, but also with the beauty of decoration. The decoration was originally geometrical or with patterns of flowers and plants, which were stylised into folk motifs in the folk style. Figurative decoration is more recent and is a sign of a decline which has ended in today ´s sticking of transfers on the eggs.

Originally the eggs were decorated by scratching the shell or by applying wax, which was removed after painting. Of course, this required a high skill and a lot of time as well.

But there is a simpler method which avoids the use of artificial colouring matters so wide-spread today, eggs are dipped into an infusion of onion skins, spring rye, parsley, hay, the bark of apple or plum trees, or of black coffee. Then leaves of yarrow or cover are stuck into the eggs, which are wrapped in a cloth, tied well and boiled in one of these infusions. Finally they are taken out of the cloth and the leaves are removed, and the print of the plants remains on the eggs.

By Marie Imbrova

Vydavatelem Českého dialogu je Mezinárodní český klub

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