Easter and Pussy Willow

First of all, happy Easter to all of you, who celebrate it today! :)

It’s a long weekend here in Czech Republic and the city is very quiet, people taking it easy, staying at home with their families. Main attributes of Easter in CZ are pretty similar to those all around Europe – eggs, rabbits, chicks (not simply symbols of Easter, but also of rebirth and fertility, coming to us from times before Christianity). However, there was this one symbol of Easter I was not familiar with before:

easterincz
taken from http://pomlazkaavelikonoce.sweb.cz

This handmade whip made of pussy willow with ribbons is called pomlázka. On Easter Monday, men traditionally whipped women in their family and among the neighbours. In return, they would be given coloured eggs (or maybe a shot of vodka). The reason for this interesting tradition is that this whipping is supposed to bring the woman beauty (the name of the whip can be roughly translated as ‘the one, bringing youth’), health and fertility for the next year. These pomlazka’s are sold around the city from temporary stalls in various sizes – from around half a meter to almost as tall as a person (can’t imaging what kind of whipping could be done by that).

In Orthodox Cristian church this Sunday is called Willow Sunday, when we would usually go to a church with a bunch of pussy willow, which would be sprinkled with holy water. We would then keep it in a vase next to the icons at home for the next year.

photo from http://despravda.com
photo from http://despravda.com

It is said that the willow was used on Palm Sunday, as palm trees don’t grow in the North. However, it has more meaning behind it. From the pagan times, the willow is associated with the end of harsh winter, beginning of spring and rebirth of life. It is supposed to protect man and beast from harm, if kept at home. Before the modern medicine, the catkins were used as a remedy against colds and the infusion, made from boiling the brunches, – against pains and fever.

If you know of any other interesting Easter traditions, please, do share :)

14 comments

  1. In a few short weeks of blogging, I’ve leaned that the world is shrinking. Today I’ve learned things about your country that I’ve never read before. I’ve now new respect for the willow that I have only associated with cricket bats. Here in the Land of Oz I can’t think of any traditions for easter that are out of the ordinary. Thanks for your illuminating writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you :) I always liked willow, as it came with the beginning of spring, but also had no idea about the deeper meaning. Internet is amazing :)

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  2. I can’t think of any interesting italian traditions for Easter but that is probably because I’m always looking beyond the fence into other countries. My father-in-law’s caregiver is romanian and she showed us the cracking egg game (knocking hard-boiled eggs end-to-end one against another). Would love to spend Easter in the Czech Republic in the future.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This game is played in Ukraine and Russia as well :)
      It looked so cool here, when all the men and boys went around with those whips! We went for a drive to another town on Easter Monday and could see how guys go from house to house, obviously with an intention of whipping hostesses :)

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  3. […] We lived for about 4 months in Crimea (then Ukraine, now, I guess, Russia), when she was about 1.5 (we went there during our time in Shanghai). We spent there a part of a spring and a summer – it’s such an amazing place! The sea, mountains, forests. Love it! (Have a look at some photos from Crimea here and here). When we were there, it was time to celebrate Easter. It was a great occasion to introduce our daughter to the way we traditionally celebrate this holiday. We coloured some eggs, bought Easter cakes (I’m not a good enough cook to bake them!) and went to a local church to have them sprinkled with holly water a day before Easter. Our daughter was really happy to get all dressed up and carry a bucket with bright looking treats :) There were a lot of people surrounding the church, when we got there. We waited for the priest to come our way and our daughter was really curious, looking at what he was doing – he was springing everything and everyone around with a brush dipped into some holly water. When he reached us and we got our very generous share of sprinkles, she got surprised and upset – oh my God, what was all that about??? She settled down quickly, though, and later told everyone about that incident with the help of few words and a lot of pantomime :) We went to this pre-Easter celebration in Moscow and our younger daughter joined us a couple of years later as well. I think, it’s such a happy tradition – everyone’s smiling, happy about the spring finally coming, about bright sunshine and warmer days, laughing about getting wet. One my favourite holidays :) Find out more about Easter symbols in our culture here. […]

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