The last week of Lent was called Passion, Holy or Greater Week. Immediately after Palm Sunday, homes launch a major spring cleaning and prepare for the important holidays.
“Blue” Monday - 21. 3. 2016
The name comes from the fabric hung in churches that day.
“Grey” Tuesday - 22. 3. 2016
There were no special customs on Tuesday.
“Sootsweeping” Wednesday - 23. 3. 2016
Chimneys were swept this day. Some areas also called this day “Ugly” Wednesday. People were not supposed to frown; otherwise they would be ugly every Wednesday of the year. This is the day Judas betrayed Jesus – he frowned at him.
The focal point of Easter is in the following three days: Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday, which have been integrated into the Three Sacred Days (Triduum sacrum) since Vatican II.
Holy “Green” Thursday - 24. 3. 2016
The name is probably derived from the green chasuble that was used on this day. People were supposed to eat green food (spinach, nettles, various types of cabbage) in order to be healthy the rest of the year. The church bells ring for the last time – they “fly off to Rome” and remain silent until “White” Saturday. Instead of bells, clappers and rattles sound through the air. People ate pastries covered with honey (jidášky) which are rather similar to hot cross buns. During Holy Thursday mass, the bishop and monastic clergy washed the feet of twelve elderly men just as Jesus washed the apostles’ feet at the Last Supper.
Good Friday - 25. 3. 2016
Good Friday (also called “Painful” and “Quiet”) is a day of deep mourning. Jesus was interrogated on Thursday night and into Friday morning, and on Friday Jesus was sentenced to death and crucified. No mass was held, only texts and songs were read during services. People walked on the Way of the Cross in remembrance of Jesus’ suffering and pain. It was believed that the earth would open to give forth treasures. On this day people woke up before dawn to wash in the stream or river to protect themselves against disease and pain. People did not work on this day, nor did they drink milk, eat eggs or smoke. It was not allowed to wash clothing this day as laundresses said that they would be soaking the laundry in the blood of Christ.
Holy “White” Saturday - 26. 3. 2016
The last day of fasting was “White” Saturday, when Jesus’ body was removed from the cross and entombed. In terms of liturgy, only night-time services were held. In the morning, fires were set and consecrated before churches (the burning of Judas) and homemakers lit small pieces of wood from the fires to carry home. That evening, everyone in the church welcomed Jesus who rose from the dead. A monstrance bearing the Eucharist and a statue or painting of Christ was lifted from the Holy Sepulchre, and these were carried in procession celebrating the Resurrection. This is the height of the Easter celebration – the Vigil. The Czech name for Easter, Velikonoce, comes from the name of this celebration – Great Night (Veliká noc). The bells “return from Rome” and ring out.
Sunday – Easter Feast Day - 27. 3. 2016
Easter dishes were blessed on the first Easter Sunday – Easter lamb cake, sweet bread, bread, eggs and wine which would all help get people used to fattier food after the long fasting period. People would eat Easter stuffing, mutton, lamb and pigeon that had been blessed in the church. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ – Celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection.
Easter Monday - 28. 3. 2016
On Easter Monday, also called “Red” (from the colour of the eggs women gave out), Whipping or “Pomlázka Feast” Monday, men set out to visit local women in a local custom called pomlázka. Originally a magical pagan ceremony intended to ensure fertility and good health, adults participated in this custom where the men whipped the women with a freshly plaited birch stick (pomlázka) and poured strong, vital water over them in order to drive sicknesses out of them, and in return the women would reward the men with decorated eggs as a promise of future, yet still hidden life.Later the day mainly became a source of entertainment for children as well as adults. To this day boys walk from house to house visiting girls with their hand-plaited or purchased pomlázka decorated with vibrantly coloured ribbons. Visitors young and old receive decorated eggs, small sweets or Easter gingerbread from the whipped girls. The Easter rhymes that usually accompany the entire ritual are also noteworthy.
The history of Easter stretches far back into the past. The holiday arose from the Jewish holiday Passover or Pesach (the source of the Russian and Greek names for Easter paskha), celebrating the deliverance of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. The Christians tried to differentiate their celebration of Easter from the Jewish holiday and thus focus on celebrating the resurrection of Jesus.
Similar celebrations can be found among the pagans who celebrated the arrival of spring that time of year. Their celebration was accompanied by a large number of customs and rituals which have remained practically untouched all the way up to the present day. The etymological meaning of the Czech word for Easter,Velikonoce, can be found in the name veliká noc – the Great Night celebration (which is still celebrated in the Orthodox Church). The German and English names of Ostern and Easter recall the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and fertility, Ostara, the counterpart to the Slavic mythological character Vesna (“spring”).
Determining the date of Easter
The First Council of Nicaea in 325 decided that Easter should fall on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox. As a result, Easter is a moveable feast day which can occur anytime between 22 March and 25 April. The latest Easter was 25 April 1943; the earliest was 22 March 1818. Prague astronomer Johannes Kepler was the first in the Czech lands to draw up tables calculating the dates of Easter.