Masopust (Mardi Gras) celebrations are culminating in many parts of the
country ahead of Ash Wednesday.
The annual carnival in which people dress up in masks and costumes traditionally takes place between the Epiphany and Ash Wednesday, which falls on March 6th this year, when the pre-Easter forty day fast begins.
Although few Czechs observe the fast these days, the Masopust celebrations which were seen as the last chance to eat heartily and make merry for over a month, are extremely popular.
If you visit the Czech countryside at the start of the year you are likely to receive an invitation to attend a "zabijačka" – in other words a pig-slaughter feast; a centuries old tradition that is still observed in many parts of the country. While for some it is a barbaric practice that has no place in the present-day, for others it is an important part of village folklore that brings people together.
Czechia is where East meets West. This may sound like an empty cliché that many other countries or even cities use to promote themselves. But it is definitely true that this country in Central Europe is roughly divided into two culturally distinct parts. Doctor Jana Poláková is an ethnographer in the Moravian Museum in Brno. As she explains, Christmas is a good time to observe the differences between the folklore in different parts of the country.
Joy Bellefontaine is Acadian French and proud of it, but having married a Czech husband and living in the Czech Republic for nearly 20 years she admits her family’s Christmas contains a mix of local and Acadian traditions. Tom McEnchroe, visited her to find out how foreigners living in the country celebrate their Christmas.
His ancestors were among the most influential nobility in Bohemia, but unlike many others, they chose to remain in Czechoslovakia after the communist takeover. Now Děpolt Czernin is doing his best to protect a famous Czech tradition – “Ježíšek”. He has founded a society devoted to bringing the likeness of baby Jesus back into the public sphere.
Lodged just before Christmas, December 22nd may at first seem a rather unremarkable day. However, it marks the anniversary of the first recorded Christmas tree being introduced on Czech soil. Today Christmas trees have not only established themselves in nearly every household but also dominate many town squares. This despite an initial struggle against Czech revivalists, who saw it as a German import.
The festive dinner on Czech Christmas Eve is mostly associated with fried carp and potato salad, but few people know that this is a fairly modern tradition, established only after the Second World War. In the old days before the tradition of fried carp and salad was established, Czechs used to eat more humble meals, although they came in a rich variety of styles.
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