Do you remember those 10 Czech Christmas traditions that just cannot be real (but they totally are) – including pouring melted lead into the sink and basically predicting everyone’s (& their cat’s) death? Well, let me tell you this – Christmas is not the only time when Czech people go out of their way to do strange, oh so strange things. Easter might be even more bonkers than Christmas in Czech Republic. But since Easter is about re-birth & resurrection the traditions are not all that dark and grim – or are they?
Which Czech Easter traditions are the craziest?
🐣 Eggs, eggs, eggs
It’s all about those hard boiled & blown out eggs which turn into a true work of art in the hands of Czech women. We decorate them with tiny pin heads dipped in melted wax creating elaborate lace designs, with pressed whey straws which once dried becomes super glossy and fancy, with dark ink which we then scrape off in places to create miniature carvings. We spend hours and hours with our backs bent over wicker baskets full of eggs making our little master pieces. Just to give them away to boys and men who come around on Easter Monday morning to whip our butts. Literally.
🐣 Braided whips & willow twigs
Perhaps one of the more eye-brow raising traditions is said whipping. On the weekend before Easter Monday all boys get together and braid their willow whips. It’s a pretty elaborate process of bending the twigs in certain ways and it’s often considered to be one of those father-son bonding activities. On Easter Monday (as early as 6am in some regions) the men walk from door to door whipping girls who then give them their beautifully painted eggs and a ribbon in return. It’s meant to represent rebirth in its most innocent sense but let’s be honest here – it’s all one big dirty innuendo, isn’t it!
🐣 Buckets of cold water
Czech nation is a particularly revengeful one so it wouldn’t be us if we didn’t seek some sort of pay off after getting our bottoms bruised by those damn willow whips. After midday the roles turn and girls are encouraged to drench boys with buckets full of freezing cold water. And that’s worth it, right?
🐣 Easter ratcheting
Slightly less common but still very popular in many parts of the country is ratcheting. When boys are walking around whipping girls’ bottoms they often carry their ratchets; ratcheting their way through the town so everyone knows how macho they are they are coming. A Czech variation on Native American war chants if you like.
🐣 The baby lamb’s poo
Since Czechia is one of the most atheist countries in the world not all our Easter traditions are strictly religious. Because of our pagan past we put a lot of emphasis on rebirth of the nature in spring. Similarly to Christmas we give each other little presents (nowhere as generous as you would at Christmas!) alluding to the fact that we don’t wish a baby lamb’s poo to drop upon anyone. Because baby lambs apparently only poo on people who have no friends and therefore get no gifts. And who wants to be shat on by a sheep, really!
🐣 And there are more lambs
Lambs are for us what bunnies are for British people. We have chocolate lambs, toy lambs, tiny lamb decorations for your table. We also slaughter lambs for a traditional roasted lamb dinner with lots of herbs and a side of nettle stuffing. Yes, we do go out in the morning, pick up a ton of stingy nettles (they say that nettle stings prevent cancer so the more pain the better!) and mush it up in our stuffing. And no, nettles don’t sting once you’ve cooked them!
🐣 The Lent carnival
In more traditional regions of the country you will come across Lent carnivals. Locals usually dress up in traditional colourful costumes, animal attires (bears, horses & donkeys are one of the most popular ones) or just plain crazy outfits (pretty much all of them have historical subtext to them though). They all wander through the town with horse carriages, lots of loud brass music and ratchets until they all come together in a local pub where they all get absolutely shattered on cheese, smoked meat, lots of bread and doughnuts, beer, wine and slivovice (plum vodka).
🐣 Burning the Reaper
Another one from the more traditional regions (closer to the Slovakian border) is burning the Reaper as part of the Lent carnival. We make a scarecrow Reaper from hay and sticks (who usually looks like an old woman – because we ain’t ones for discrimination obviously) and then a procession carries it to a huge stake where we burn it. This is essentially a rather dramatic farewell to the winter season that is now leaving and is being replaced with all things young and pretty!
🐣 Burying of a cello
Now if you want to take the above tradition a notch further (in the direction of the Eastern border), you might want to bury a double bass. And the ceremony comes with everything a good funeral comes with – a priest, candles, wreaths and even an old school wooden washtub in the place of a casket.