Europe is famous for their Christmas markets but did you know that the Czech Republic’s capital city of Prague also holds annual Easter markets? Think hand painted Easter eggs instead of Christmas ornaments, the Easter bunny instead of St Nick, an Easter tree instead of a Christmas tree, the same delicious food stall fare and hot drinks, slightly warmer weather, and you have the celebration of springtime and Easter (Velikonoce) in Prague.
Held across the pretty city of Prague for three weeks at Old Town Square, Wecenslas Square, Náměstí Republiky Square, and below St. Vitus Cathedral stand cheerful red – red being the color of Easter and springtime in the Czech republic – canvas covered wooden stalls festooned with birch tree twigs and pastel colored streamers flapping in the March wind from which paprika smoked klobása sausages and cheap cold Czech beer can be had for only a few crowns (korunas), or delicate hand painted eggs and other gifts and decorations, or trdelníks – sugar and walnut dusted cylindrically shaped pastries I jokingly started referring to as ‘turtlenecks’ as a play on their name and shape. Cooked over an open flame and served toasty hot with the option of nutella, fruit compote, or ice-cream on the inside they are incredibly delicious. This sweet tooth admits to having had more than one a day!
The markets also include music and dance performances, demonstrations of old arts and crafts, decorating Easter eggs and making candles. In other words, fun for the whole family!
I had a hard time choosing just one of the ornately decorated eggs known as kraslice to take home. The friendly guy behind the stall was telling me that they use very fine dental drills to bore the holes into the shells and create the finely detailed etchings. Besides paint, bees wax, onion peels, straw, wire, and stickers are also used to adorn the egg shells. While hemming and hawing over my selection, I noticed lots of geometric patterns, as well as flowers, and Prague landmarks.
Dan and I have a little Charlie Brown Christmas tree that we put out every year and decorate with ornaments we’ve collected during our travels (yes, we are the postcard travelers as well as the Christmas ornament travelers haha) and I finally decided on a beautifully blue painted egg with a scene of the Prague castle.
One unique and amusing Czech tradition is the making of small braided birch twigs tied together with ribbons called pomlázkas which boys then used to “whip” the legs of young girls as the practice was once thought to bring health and beauty in the coming year. The girls then offer the boys a colored Easter egg in gratitude. In some Eastern regions of the country, the men also pour buckets of cold water over the women. Honestly I’m not sure which is the lesser of two unpleasants, a whipping or being doused with cold water? All I know is that Dan had better not get any ideas!
The ritual is still reputedly practiced in rural parts of the Czech Republic, however, in the city though you’ll see the pomlázkas for sale they are just for show and good fun. Have you come across a local tradition during your travels that both intrigued you and left you shaking your head in amusement? I would love to know!