Date of Performance/Collection: 4/13/18
Primary Language: Czech
Other Language(s): English
Informant: On every Easter Monday it is a Czech tradition for men to create a Pomlázka, which is an approximately one meter long wooden stick. This stick is then used to whip women on the butt.
The whipping is traditionally accompanied by a song, its purpose is to cleanse the woman of diseases and they are rewarded with sweets if they are children and alcohol if they are old enough to drink. Then, in some parts of the country, it is also a tradition for women to spill or pour a bucket of cold water on men as a reaction.
The songs usually are something along the lines of “give me eggs”, referring to the overarching tradition of Easter eggs. The most commonly song is something like: “Hody, hody, doprovody, dejte vejce malovaný, nedáte-li malovaný, dejte aspoň bílý, slepička vám snese jiný”, which I believe roughly translates to: “Hey, hey, give us coloured Easter eggs, if you don’t have coloured ones, give us at least white ones, your hen will give you new ones”
Context: My informant is a nineteen year old Czech national attending school in the United States. He’s lived in Prague for most of his life, and Czech is his first language. The interview was conducted face-to-face in a college dorm room.
Background: My informant actively participates in Easter celebrations in Prague, where this tradition is widely practiced. According to him, most people find it ridiculous, but nevertheless entertaining, a view which he shares. He believes that this is an important expression of Czech culture, as this tradition dates back generations, but also thinks that it is practiced mostly for entertainment.
Analysis: This was one of the first holiday based customs I encountered while collecting elements of folklore. I was surprised that, despite occurring on Easter, the custom is actually relatively devoid of Christian symbolism, instead focusing on the egg element of the holiday. This seems to reflect a less-dominant role of religion within Czech culture, as Easter Sunday, a not unimportant day for Christians, is celebrated without the mention of Jesus or the resurrection at all. There are, however, some religious undertones, as the whipping sticks used by the men supposedly “cleanse” the women of their diseases.