Czech Easter Holidays

Similarly to Christmas, Czech Easter carries little of the religious content which it is based upon. As atheism steadily became more and more common in the region, these customs became more of folk rituals, which brought people together. Christmas was also identified with winter solstice and Easter is commonly seen as festivities of the coming spring. All the elements did somehow fit together in the times when faith was something common, undisputed, matter- of- fact, something one did not reach after consideration and thought about the world, but what was an integral part of human life. As new forms of thought such as rationalism, 19th Century nationalism and socialism spread around Europe, turning its spiritual foundations upside down, the customs were losing their religious impact. The interesting thing is that not only people did not abandon them, they did not even abandon the Christian symbolism, though they don’t believe in it already. The obvious example is the Czech Ježíšek (“little Christ”), whom children address the wishes they have considering Christmas presents. He is turned into a nice family figure, nearly a fairy- tale character, part of a cosy home.

The transition from a religious event to a cultural one is probably natural, so I wouldn’t recommend the Christians to lament about it, because it only widens the gap between the believers and the atheists. On the other hand, reminding of the feast’s basis is reasonable, one should have some idea of the occasion he or she celebrates.

The feast is moveable, taking place between March 22 and April 25. The Easter Monday itself is preceded by a week of Christian festivities, which are often not reflected in the secular calendar- most people celebrate only in the last two days. Palm Sunday, a week before Easter, marks Christ’s coming into Jerusalem, Maundy Thursday reminds of the day he had his Last supper with his followers. The Good Friday marks the day he, according to the bible, was Crucified. This is followed by Holy Saturday, when he was buried in a tomb. Easter Monday marks the day Christ was believed to have risen from the grave.
In the Christian tradition Easter is followed by the Ascension Thursday (Christ’s ascension to Heaven), Trinity Sunday and Corpus Christi feasts.

The secularized, most common version is particularly interesting in the East Central Europe. In Czech Republic and Slovakia the celebrations are accompanied by the whipping ritual. Young men are supposed to spank ladies with a whip made of willow rods. The spanking is meant to bring health and beauty to its subjects. In Czech Republic the tradition is not very strong, the custom mostly carried out by children and predominantly in the country.
The contemporary Czech Easter consists mainly of family gatherings, meals and sometimes heavy drinking. The last mentioned is the reason why every Easter week has a downside to it, since it is usually accompanied by a considerable number of accidents, often tragic.

Still what most people associate with Easter is the chance for family members to be together, enjoying a short holiday and welcoming the end of winter. Though this year, with sub- zero temperatures at night and snowfall during the day, the coming of spring seems pretty far on the horizon.

Mar 2, 12:19 (Filed under: Culture )

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