Thursday, April 21, 2011

Velikonoce (Easter)

Easter is a major holiday in the Czech Republic, but not because it is a religious one. Under communism the holiday was one of welcoming spring. It seems to us that little has changed in that regard. The decorations, candy eggs, Easter arrangements with chicks and lambs, and special baking molds for traditional Easter cakes shaped like lambs have filled the stores for over a month. On Ugly Wednesday or as they would say in Czech, Škaredá středa, the traditional Easter market arrived in the Zlín square. The market is filled with booths offering traditional Czech crafts of pottery, glass, jewelry, candles, and the beautiful hand decorated Easter eggs, called kraslice. The food booths are the ones that seem to be the busiest. They sell potato pancakes, sausages, mulled wine, beer, cheese and - seemingly everyone’s favorite - the Easter cukroví or sweets.

Every day of the week, except Tuesday, is given a specific name throughout the Easter week. There is Ugly Wednesday, and Green Thursday. On Thursday, we are told that traditionally the boys walk through the village with homemade rattles to chase away Judas. I read that this is to be repeated on Good Friday. They are to go again on White Saturday, only this time they stop at the houses and rattle until they collect money. Easter Sunday seems to be mainly a day to prepare the eggs and to make the pomlázkas.

A pomlázka is made by twisting or braiding together pussy willow branches. Colorful ribbons are tied on the end, although we are not sure why. It is thought that they will bring health and youth to anyone who is whipped with them.

Easter Monday is a very big deal. On that day, boys young and old go to visit friends, bringing, of course, their pomlázka to whip the women. Sometimes they are required to say an Easter poem before they are rewarded with eggs and candy. Frequently the men are rewarded with a drink of slivovice, a potent plum brandy. Our friend René says that it is a good day to go visit friends and family.

The Czech name for Easter is Velikonoce, which comes from the words great night. Truly, for those who believe in Christ, Easter was a great night indeed - the greatest of all nights. For on Good Friday Christ suffered and died so that the wrath of God against sin would be appeased and the righteousness of God upheld. But on the great night of waiting, on the third day, Romans 4:25 says, Jesus was “raised for our justification.” This Christ did so that the righteousness of God might be revealed. We have great cause to rejoice in the One who died for us and for our salvation. In spite of all our rebellion, in spite of loving, delighting and longing after everything more than God, He by grace through faith declares all those who believe to be the righteousness of God in Christ. His great grace causes my heart to rejoice! Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Veselé Velikonoce!

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