Traditional carnival celebrations preceding the beginning of Lent are taking place all over the Czech capital, with many neighborhoods organizing their own celebrations. Prague’s Žižkov district holds the claim to the longest running post-communist tradition of Masopust festivities, as they are called in Czech. This year, Žižkov celebrates the twentieth Masopust in the neighborhood.
Before revelers in masks, adorned with ribbons or wearing face paint, drumming and singing begin the traditional Shrove Tuesday carnival parade on Prague’s Jiřího z Poděbrad square, the Žižkov Masopust begins more quietly during the preceding weekend.
Many of this weekend’s activities, which the Prague 3 city hall helped to organize, were geared toward families with children. The program included mask making as well as a cartoon screening at the favorite Aero movie theater – a Žižkov staple.
For adults, the celebration began on Sunday at the famous pub U vystřelenýho oka, below Vítkov hill. U Vystřelenýho oka has been hosting the Žižkov Masopust for all of these twenty years – bringing the village tradition into a city setting. Hundreds of people visit the pub on Sunday to taste the pig slaughter delicacies, have a beer with friends and listen to the traditional wind band Žižkovanka.
I asked one of the organizers on Sunday, about who usually comes to celebrate Masopust at the pub.
“Many of the same people have been coming here for 20 years; old people from Žižkov, but not only from Žižkov. One man comes from Frýdek-Místek, which is some 600 kilometers away. Some foreigners, people with children. Occasionally, some visitors who are passing by and decide to stop in. I think [it is because] we have a good reputation.”
“We all know each other here, at least a bit, so it almost feels like home. We gather here every year. Some of us seniors go dancing together too. And we meet up all the time, wherever there is music, we go there.”
The main Masopust attraction, though, is still the Tuesday afternoon parade. Over the past twenty years the parade route has expanded from just a couple of hundred meters from the pub to the nearby town hall, to almost two and a half kilometers that take revelers from the largest square of Žižkov to one its most popular football stadiums.
And as at any proper pre-lent festival, food is one of the most important parts of the Žižkov Masopust. Prague 3 mayor, Vladislava Hujová, told me that a few thousand people are expected to attend the Tuesday evening procession, and the town hall is prepared to serve everyone:
“During the procession we will be giving out almost 3,000 portions of liver sausages (jitrnice) and blood sausages (jelito). Near the Viktoria Žižkov stadium there will be a special event – the portioning of huspenina (pork-based aspic). It should come out to 1,000 portions. I hope that we will make it onto the list of Czech records and curiosities that is compiled in Pelhřimov.”
The Masopust carnival will wind up on Tuesday evening with a concert of
the band Sto zvířat, as all carnivals, grudgingly welcoming Lent.
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