- Czech Traditions
Each country has it’s own traditions. This booklet is to promote the Czech traditions and events. Illustrations are cut out of paper and then photographed. The book also includes postcards. The project was a collaboration with an illustrator Jenny Cox who created the spreads: Witch Day and St.Nicholas Day.promotion of Czech traditions and events. Those traditions are Witch Day, Easter Monday, St.Nicholas Day, Letters for Baby Jesus and Christmas Day. Illustrations are made of paper and photographed and the book includes postcards, which can be send to friends.
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- Young, live pussywillow twigs are thought to bring health and youth to anyone who is whipped with them. An Easter pomlázka (from pomladit or "make younger") is a braided whip made from pussywillow twigs. It has been used for centuries by boys who go caroling on Easter Monday and symbolically whip girls on the legs. In the past, pomlázka was also used by the farmer's wife to whip the livestock and everyone in the household, including men and children. There would be no Czech Easter without the pomlázka.
Boys used to make their own pomlázkas in the past. The more twigs, the more difficult it was to braid one. This skill is not widespread anymore and pomlázkas can be bought in stores and street stands. Some men don't even bother and use a single twig or even a wooden spoon!
Girls decorate Easter eggs to give them to boys on Easter Monday. There are many Easter egg decorating techniques and the more elaborate ones require a certain level of skill. Different materials can be used, such as bee’s wax, straw, watercolors, onion peels, picture stickers. The most common designs are probably geometrical patterns, but you can also see flowers, leaves or snowflake patterns in a whole range of colors. There are no limitations to creating pretty, colorful eggs.
- One of the popular Czech traditions is The Burning of the Witches Night on the 30th April when people make bonfires and burn witches made from straw and old cloth to end the long winter that the witches keep around.
On the evening of April 30th, Czechs gather to build a bonfire and prepare an effigy of the witch that kept winter around so long. Czechs used to believe that the power of witches would weaken as the weather got warmer. So they thought that if they made something that looked like a witch and burned it, they could finally get rid of the cold weather. First, they tie two large sticks together to form a cross.
Then they stuff old shirts, pants and socks with straw and place a pointed hat on the top of the stack. The witch is tied to a broomstick and set aside until darkness falls. When the fire is roaring, people roast sausages on sticks, strum guitars, and sing their favorite songs. Everyone looks forward to nightfall, when they will face the spirits of the witches. As soon as it's dark, the effigy of the witch is brought out and held up for all to see. Then, withOne of the popular Czech traditions is The Burning of the Witches Night on the 30th April when people make bonfires and burn witches made from straw and old cloth to end the long winter that the witches keep around. People roast sausages on sticks, strum guitars, and sing their favorite songs.
This illustration was design by Jenny Cox
- The charming tradition of St. Nicholas falls on the eve of St. Nicholas Day, December 5th.
If you find yourself walking the streets on that evening, you may run into a group of strange characters: St. Nicholas (Mikuláš), the Angel (andel) who represents the Good, and the Devil (cert) representing the Evil. All wear costumes. Mikuláš looks a bit like Santa Claus whose origin was supposedly inspired by St. Nicholas.
All three characters walk the streets, stopping children and asking them if they were good in the past year. Most kids say yes and sing a song or recite a short poem. They are then rewarded with sweets, candy or other treats, which are handed out by the Angel. Bad kids would be put in the Devil’s sack and taken to hell, or would only get a sack of potatoes or coal instead of candy of course it does not really happen!
The eve of St. Nicholas is especially fun in Prague. Parents bring their children to the Old Town Square where you can see the tradition in full swing roughly between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. In small towns and villages, the three characters visit people's homes. The evening of December 5 is therefore an exciting (and scary) time for children and sometimes for parents too!
This illustration was design by Jenny Cox
- The letters are sent to Baby Jesus, an has wishes inside – toys for kids, or even wishes like ‘dad should stop smoking’ or ‘mam should be less worried’.
If you want to send your wishes to Baby Jesus, the address is Jeziskova Posta, 362 62, Bozi Dar, Czech Republic. Don’t forget, Baby Jesus does the same job as Santa Claus in the United States, but with one difference – Baby Jesus loves all, so he doesn’t make a list with good/bad deeds. Also, he doesn’t use chimneys.
As Baby Jesus is supernatural, he doesn’t have to open the letters to know what is inside. But the letters have to be stamped, for which the post in Bozi Dar have to work very hard until 22th of December.
- For many, December 24 (Štedrý den) is the most enjoyable day of Christmas holidays. Its Czech name literally means “Generous Day”, probably for the wealth of food that has traditionally been served for Christmas dinner. Even poor families would make sure that their plates were full on this one day of the year.
The Christmas tree is decorated with traditional Czech Christmas ornaments in many households and preparations are made for the most festive dinner of the year. According to one Czech Christmas custom, one is supposed to fast all day to see the "golden piglet" (zlaté prasátko) in the evening. After dinner, everyone around the table may sing Christmas carols before moving to the Christmas tree, which is all lit up and beautiful. By then, presents have been placed under the tree. Czech children believe that Christmas gifts are brought by Baby Jesus (Jezíšek) who comes into the room through the window to leave the presents. Unlike Santa Claus, Baby Jesus is a rather abstract figure with no particular physical image attached to him, and no one knows where he lives. Just like Santa though, he receives wish-list letters from Czech children a few weeks before Christmas.
Dinner is served after sunset and consists of carp and potato salad, sometimes preceded by mushroom, sauerkraut or fish soup. Dinner can be finished with dessert, such as apple strudel. A traditional Christmas bread called vánocka (similar to the Jewish challa) used to be a part of the Christmas dinner in the past but today it has largely lost its Christmas connotation and is available year-round.