Czech Easter Markets and Traditions
Velikonoce, the Czech name for Easter, comes from the expression velká noc, meaning “great night,” a reference to Jesus coming back from the dead. Despite the name, Easter here is not your typical religious affair. Seeing as the Czech Republic is one of the most secular countries in Europe, the country celebrates the coming of spring and warm weather and focuses less on the religious aspects of the holiday. Here’s our rundown of Czech Easter traditions and the best Easter markets.
It’s all about tradition… and whipping?
For Easter, girls decorate kraslice (Easter Eggs) by hand with bright and colorful designs, from geometric patterns to floral scenes, made out of paint, straw and beeswax. Grandmothers, mothers and daughters decorate these eggs to pass off to young boys on Easter Monday.
You’ll see a lot of the color red this holiday, since the color symbolizes health, happiness and the new life that the spring season brings. The name kraslice even comes from the Russian word for red.
The boys only receive kraslice after lightly whipping the girls on their legs with pomlázka, basically a braided whip with ribbon decorations at the end. Yes, you read that right; girls get whipped and then give the boys a present as a thank you for the whipping. Legend has it, the pussywillow twigs the pomlázka are made out of bring health and youth to the girls for the remainder of the year.
It wouldn’t be a Czech holiday without endless markets.
Beginning on April 6, three of the largest markets will appear in the most popular areas of Prague to welcome the spring season. At Old Town Square, Wenceslas Square and Republic Square vendors will sell decorated eggs and handcrafted jewelry and ceramics, as well as host traditional dances, concerts and other entertainment. We recommend checking out the Old Town Square market with its flower-decorated stalls and egg decorating and candle making children’s activities.
The markets are open every day from April 6 – 28 starting around 10 AM and going until the early evening. This includes Easter Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
Visit the Náplavka Farmers’ Market for food and sunshine.
On April 20 from 8AM – 4PM walk along the beautiful Vltava down to the Náplavka Farmers’ Market for a special Easter market with some of the best traditional food and breathtaking views of Prague. From the lamb-shaped gingerbread and sweet bread called mazanec, to live hens laying eggs you can then decorate yourself, the riverside market is a beautiful way to celebrate the Easter holiday.
Shaking rattles and whipping for presents: Easter Week.
- Ugly Wednesday (Škaredá středa): Named after the day Judas betrayed Jesus, Ugly Wednesday is traditionally known as spring cleaning day when school children finish school to begin decorating for Easter celebrations.
- Green Thursday (Zelený čtvrtek) & Good Friday (Velký pátek): Boys walk around their town or village shaking řehtačka (wooden rattles) in order to ward off Judas Iscariot, the disciple that betrayed Jesus in Christianity. The days are also spent fasting from meat and eating green foods instead, like spinach and cabbage, and even drinking green beer.
- White Saturday (Bílá sobota): The rattling continues, but today boys go door to door shaking the řehtačka in hopes of receiving money from the residents, which they then split between themselves.
- Easter Sunday (Velikonoční neděle): In preparation for Easter Monday, girls decorate their kraslice if they haven’t already while the boys prepare their pomlázka.
- Easter Monday (Pondělí velikonoční): Today is the “day of pomlázka,” a national holiday which began as a pagan tradition meant to chase away evil spirits. The boys gently whip girls on the legs with the pomlázka, sometimes accompanied by a douse of water, in hopes of bringing them health, youth and fertilization in the year to come. They often recite Easter carols during the whipping. Once whipped the girls reward the boys with kraslice, candy or tie another ribbon around the boy’s pomlázka. The tradition is still upheld in small towns and villages, but it has lost its symbolic meaning over the years, now celebrated just for fun. Some women even replace the traditional rewards with money or shots of slivovice, the Czech plum brandy.
The combination of the warming spring weather and festivities bring Prague to life during the Easter season. From the colorful Easter markets in Prague, to the Czech traditions in the villages the Easter season in the Czech Republic is one that surely should not be missed.