In the Czech Republic, Easter weekend is far more than a Christian holiday — it’s a celebration of spring, of ancient traditions, and of coming together as friends, as family, and as a community. Our team photographer @alexandratakesphotos went out and about over the weekend to capture the spirit of Easter in Prague, snapping still lifes that show the colours, the eggs, the traditions, and the spirit that defines the first signs of spring in the city.
The one place in Prague that you’ll definitely want to stroll through on Easter weekend is Old Town Square. A lot of people know this square from the Astronomical Clock, or the popular Christmas markets, but did you know that it’s also home (like many of Prague’s squares) to an awesome Easter market? Here, you can get tons of festive goodies in addition to feasting your eyes on some much-missed colour after months of winter grey-ness.
You’ve probably seen a Christmas tree or two in your lifetime, but how many Easter trees can you say you’ve seen? Christmas and Easter are the two major holidays on the Christian calendar, but what many people don’t know is that a lot of the Christian traditions are influenced by the pagan religions that came before them. Easter is traditionally aligned with the coming of spring and incorporates some of the old pagan “giving thanks to nature” aspects in its décor — hence the Easter tree. Whatever religion or belief system you operate on, you can’t deny that a barren tree festooned with this many vibrant colours is a pretty lovely sight!
It’s an egg-stravaganza up in here! (Sorry, we just couldn’t help ourselves there.) Unlike the Easter tree, eggs are a symbol of Easter the world over. But just where did the idea for these delicate little decorations come from? Again, you’ll have to thank the old pagan religions, in which eggs were a symbol for rebirth and fertility. These particular eggs, which are traditional in the Czech lands, are actually just painted and decorated shells, so they’re VERY delicate (although that shouldn’t stop you from taking some home as a souvenir — most shops can expertly wrap them for you). The eggs are dyed (traditionally using onion skins here in CZ) and then painted or scratched with a tiny knife/scalpel to get the desired look. Take it from one who knows, it’s no easy task, making each and every one of these designed shells a labour of love.
Looking for a tasty treat to get you in a festive Easter mood? Look no further than mazanec. While in the Czech Republic, trdelník (the “donuts” in that donut ice cream cone trend) reigns supreme, at Easter, it hands over the crown to mazanec, the traditional bread of Czech Easter. Slightly sweet (but not aggressively so) and studded with fruits and nuts, this bread is the springtime counterpart to vánočka (or houska, for any of you Czech-Americans out there) — the braided bread that Czechs bake every Christmas. With its light, fluffy texture and tasty fillings, it’s perfection with a swipe of butter and some quality coffee. The good news is that you can get both the bread and your caffeine fix at many of the local farmers’ markets during this time — this shot was taken at the market on Náměstí Jiřího z Poděbrad.
Got all the supplies you need to celebrate Easter in style? If not, don’t worry, there are more than enough market stalls stocked to ensure your festivities aren’t missing a thing. While many of the stalls are the same structures used for the Christmas market, we love how they’ve been decked out in flowers and festooned in ribbons as more of an ode to spring. In Central Europe, when at times Easter may still coincide with a late snowfall, the colours really do make all the difference. This stall just outside of Náměstí Republiky has certainly gone the extra mile with the décor.
Decisions, decisions… With so many gorgeously decorated eggs, it’s hard to choose which ones will be the best addition to your Easter aesthetic. You could just take them all, but that might prove a bit strenuous to carry (as well as on your wallet). The great thing about stalls like this is the mix of people you see perusing the wares. Not only are these stalls visited by travellers looking for handmade souvenirs to remember their spring trip to Prague, but they’re also frequented by locals looking to up their Easter game. Ah, open air markets — the great urban melting pot!
If you find yourself in Prague around Easter, you’ll definitely see a few of these puppies lying around. What are they? Pomlázka — a Czech (and sometimes Slovak) tradition. A pomlázka is a staff made of elaborately braided branches (usually willow) and decorated with brightly coloured ribbons at the end, and comes from an old pagan tradition. Each year with the coming spring, these staffs are made and then the men travel through town, hitting the females with them. While this may seem a bit odd, it was actually a ritual for fertility, and getting swatted with the willow whip ensured that the ladies would retain their beauty for the year. Strange, sure, but the ritual is often good fun, especially in villages. There, people may even dress up in folk costumes and make their own whips. As a reward, the men are often given a brightly coloured egg or in some cases, a shot of homemade liquor, leading to many fun sights as the day goes on.
In the Czech Republic, where a majority of people claim to be non-religious, Easter is primarily a celebration of spring and keeping with ancient traditions. Easter was originally a pagan celebration of the spring until Christianity came to Europe and incorporated the festivities into its own holiday. Still, spring and the theme of rebirth is everywhere this time of year regardless of your religion. We love seeing all of the fresh flowers finally popping out from the dirt after a long, cold sleep.
We’re loving this shot of the sunlight over one of our favourite markets (regardless of the season) on Kampa Island. While close to all of the major sights, Kampa is smaller and quieter, offering a break from the throngs of people on the Charles Bridge. We love its miniscule little market, surrounded by charming, old buildings. So often when you come here, you’ll hear a performance by local musicians and see families strolling through the square, taking it all in. And that, friends, is the true benefit of the Easter markets and holidays: hanging out with people you love!