In a wide-ranging interview at the start of Holy Week, leading up to Easter, the Roman Catholic priest Tomáš Petráček – a leading church and social historian – talks about the pagan, Slavic, communist and Hapsburg influences on the position of the church in Czech society over the centuries, and why, in his mind, painting eggs and pre-Christian fertility rites have a welcome place at Easter alongside the liturgy.
Our Easter Sunday music show is dedicated to an album called Studánko Rubínko or Ruby Well by the band Hradišťan, one of the country’s most respected performers of folk music. The album, intended for children and their parents, includes songs, nursery rhymes, poems and carols, connected with spring time and Easter.
Traditional Easter celebrations in the Czech Republic have a strong religious connotation. However, many of the customs connected with this season date back to pre-Christian days. This is especially true of the eastern part of the country. Moravia is a historically and culturally distinct region and this is reflected also in the way local people celebrate this most important Christian holiday of the year.
Easter in the Czech Republic is a colourful mix of Christian and pagan traditions. People savor both the spiritual dimension of the holiday and celebrate the coming of spring. For this Easter special I met with food critic Petra Pospěchová to talk about Easter foods, Easter traditions, why so many people who are not practicing Christians go to Easter mass and why she, who is a believer, enjoys getting the traditional “whipping” on Easter Monday. Here are some of her thoughts on the second most popular holiday in the Czech Republic.
The Czech Republic has a rather unusual tradition on Easter Monday. Boys get willow branches, braid them together into whips and decorate them with ribbons to whip girls with for luck and fertility. The word for this whip in Czech is pomlázka, which has also become the name of the tradition itself. To learn more about pomlázka I interviewed three Czechs. The first is a 17 year-old-girl with several brothers, the second is an active feminist and the third is an expert on Czech folklore.
Easter celebrations in the Czech Republic, which combine both Christian traditions and ancient pagan customs, are today mostly associated with painting eggs, whipping girls as well as eating loads of chocolates. But for dancer Antonie Svobodová, this time of year symbolizes a deep connection with the Earth. For more than 20 years, she has been marking the return of Spring by a ritual dance, based on age-old pagan rituals:
Although the Czech Republic is one of the most secular countries in Europe, Easter is observed in most homes around the country. True, most families observe the old Easter traditions that have largely pagan roots, but many people appreciate the message of Easter as one of reflection and forgiveness. And even though Czechs are among the least enthusiastic churchgoers in Europe, Easter mass is always a special occasion. Vít Pohanka visited the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren to find out how Protestants celebrate Easter in the Czech Republic.
Concrete barriers have gone up in parts of the Czech capital to boost
security at sites holding Easter markets. Barriers preventing entry by
trucks or vans, which could potentially be used in terrorist attacks, went
up at the start of Opletalova Street.
Barriers have already been up long-term on Prague’s Old Town Square.
Jan Dismas Zelenka is considered one of the most significant baroque composers, yet his music had been largely forgotten after his death and was only rediscovered 150 years later by the composer Bedřich Smetana. Today, each new discovery of Zelenka’s previously unknown works is a sensation of its kind. His Easter Mass, or Missa Paschalis, composed in 1726, saw its modern-day premiere just a few years ago, when it was performed by Prague’s Ensemble Inégal.