Easter is one of the oldest holidays still widely celebrated worldwide, and every country adds its own flavor to this special holiday. Curious how exactly do Czechs celebrate Easter?
What is Easter Like in the Czech Republic, and Why Do People Celebrate It?
Originally, Slavic people celebrated Easter as the arrival of spring, later to have elements of Christianity mixed in.
This history plays a significant role in how Czechs celebrate Easter, as they observe the same traditions handed down to them from their ancestors.
Today, these traditions include painting Easter eggs, baking lamb-shaped desserts, singing Easter hymns, attending church, and, that’s right, Easter whippings!
When Do Czechs Celebrate Easter?
Even though Holy Week is technically more than seven days, most Czechs come together to celebrate Easter Monday as the main holiday.
The actual date changes every year depending on the first full moon after the spring equinox.
As mentioned above, Easter in the Czech Republic is marked by a few well-known treats and desserts.
The most notable is the Czech Easter lamb pound cake, or “Velikonoční beránek”.
As the lamb is symbolic of Jesus Christ, Czechs pay homage to his resurrection by baking a pound cake in a lamb-shaped mould, then decorating it with chocolate eyes and placing a ribbon around its neck.
Another popular Easter-time delicacy is Czech mazanec, sweet Easter bread, a hot cross bun type.
"Mazanec" is traditionally made with sweet yeast dough, topped with sliced almonds, and filled with rum-soaked raisins.
In years past, people would bake their mazanec, then have them blessed by their local priest at church.
Our last typical Czech Easter food would be jidáše, or, for English speakers, “Judas”.
This sweet Easter pastry resembles a small cinnamon roll, only with honey instead of cinnamon. If you’re wondering about their namesake, let’s say Jidáše are meant to resemble a certain rope Judas might be familiar with.
TIP: Here you’ll find more Czech Easter recipes
Painted Eggs, or “Kraslice”
Painting and decorating eggs on Easter is a worldwide tradition, but Czech kraslice take it to a whole other level.
Traditionally, Czech girls would decorate Easter eggs and give them out to boys on Easter Monday.
The intricate designs many people use to decorate their eggs have since made Czech kraslice famous around the world.
For foreigners, whipping fertility and beauty into young women on Easter might appear a bit strange. This, however, remains a popular tradition in the Czech Republic to this day.
An Easter pomlázka is made by braiding young pussy willow twigs together and tying them off with colourful ribbons on the end.
In the past, boys would make their own whips and go carolling around town, looking to (softly) whip girls on their backsides.
Much like with Christmas, Czechs also have Easter poems.
As mentioned above, boys might sing a carol or two in exchange for a painted egg or even a chocolate egg.
Let’s just say, if you’re travelling the Czech Republic and you hear the phrase “Hody, hody doprovody, dejte vejce malovaný!” sung in the streets, it might just be Easter time.
Good Friday and Scavenger Hunts
Before Easter Sunday arrives, Good Friday is observed.
This is a religious holiday that is usually marked by people fasting and, in years past, scavenger hunts.
This tradition may have originally begun as an attempt to find something good for the soul that you may have lost the year before, however, today it often takes the form of an Easter egg hunt for children.
Happy Easter in Czech
If you wonder how to say Happy Easter in Czech, here is a translation: Veselé Velikonoce!
A Unique Culture
It’s safe to say the Czech Republic is a country of deep history and tradition, and there’s almost no better time to witness these customs than Easter.
If you’re planning on visiting any time in April, just be sure to keep your pomlázka and mazanec close at hand!