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.
Long before the term world music became widely used the brother-and sister duo Petr and Hana Ulrychovi played Moravian folk songs with electric guitars. Later, in search of a more authentic sound, they introduced acoustic instruments as well. The band Javory, which they established 45 years ago, is still going strong largely because of their ability to merge different genres and present Moravian folk songs in a different light, making them attractive to a younger audience. This year Hana and Petr are celebrating 55 years on stage and more than 30
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.