Harris County Chapter - Czech Heritage Society of Texas


Home

Classes

Cultural Films

Events

Library

Meetings

Newsletters

Membership

Links

History & Mission

Leadership

Contact us

Easter Customs (Velikonoce)
by Dana Shanberg

When I was growing up in Czechoslovakia in the years before 1989, the meaning of Easter (Velikonoce - from Veliké noci, or Great Nights) was limited to the welcoming of Spring. The religious connotations of Easter were suppressed under the communist regime. Nowadays, Czechs are again aware of the religious originof Easter, but Easter has not become a serious religious holiday

Easter Eggs and kraslice

The hand-painted or otherwise decorated egg (kraslice) is the most recognizablesymbol of Czech Easter. Girls decorate Easter eggs to give them to boys on Easter Monday. There are many Easter egg decorating techniques and the more elaborate ones require certain levels of skill. Different materials can be used, such as bee's wax, straw, watercolors, onion peels, picture stickers. There are no limitations to creating pretty, colorful eggs.

Pussywillow and pomlázka

Young live pussywillow twigs are thought to bring health and youth to anyone who is whipped by them. An Easter pomlázka (from pomladit or "make younger") is a braided whip made from pussywillow twigs. It has been used for centuries by boys who go caroling on Easter Monday and symbolically whip girls on the legs.

In the past, pomlázka was also used by the farmer's wife to whip the livestock and everyone in the household, including men and children. There would be no Czech Easter without the pomlázka.

The origin of the pomlázka tradition (meaning both the whip and the tradition itself) dates back to pagan times. Its original purpose and symbolic meaning is to chase away illness and bad spirits, and to bring health and youth for the rest of the year to everyone who is whipped with the young pussywillow twigs. Boys would whip girls lightly on the legs and possibly douse thedm with water, which had a similar symbolic meaning.

Dousing

Dousing a girl with water has a similar symbolic meaning as the pomlázka.

The Color Red

Red and other bright colors symbolize health, joy, happiness and new life that comes with the Spring.

The Days before Easter Sunday (the followingis based on my experience of Easter in the Northern Moravia region)

Children finish school on Ugly Wednesday (Skareda streda), which is a good idea because they need to spend some serious time on making Easter what it should be. In the evening of Green Thursday (Zeleny ctvrtek), every boy in the village equips himself with a wooden rattle (rehtacka), which is specially made for the purpose. The boys form a group and walk through the village, rattling their rattles vigorously, so the noise can be heard from afar. The meaning of the rattling is to chase away Judas. The same procedure repeats on Good Friday (Velky patek) and one more time on White Saturday (Bila sobota), when the boys don't only walk through the village, but stop at every house in the morning and rattle until they're given money, which they then split among themselves.

MARK YOUR CALENDARS

2012 Membership Dues - due by January 1, 2012

Receive meeting notices by email: just call or email the HCC-CHS and provide your email address

  • January 25: Movie, 7 pm
  • February 12: Membership Meeting, 2-5 pm
  • February 29: Movie, 7 pm
  • March 28: Movie, 7 pm
  • April 15: Spring Fest, SPJST Hall, 11am-7pm
  • April 25: Movie, 7 pm
  • May 20: Founders Day Meeting, 2-5 pm
  • May 30: Movie, 7 pm
  • July 28: State Genealogy Workshop, 10am-4pm
  • August 29: Movie, 7 pm
  • September 23: Sts. Cyril & Methodius Slavic Heritage Festival
  • September 26: Movie, 7 pm
  • October 13: Soup Tasting, 2-5 pm
  • October 31: Movie, 7 pm
  • November 4: Chapter Annual Membership Meeting, 2-5 pm
  • December 1: Chapter Christmas Open House, 2-5 pm