Czech Easter - Lent
Contributed by Petr Chudoba

"Stand in the way and hear, in order to be truly penitent; for thus the Kingdom of Heaven will come nigh to you. For true penitence is the health of the soul, the restoration of virtues, as St. Bernard testifies, saying: 'O penitence, the health of the soul, the restoration of virtues, scattering of sins, destruction of hell, gate of Heaven, the way of the just, and the satisfaction of the blessed. Most happy is the man who loves the holy penitence and guards it till the end of his life.' Stand in the way of God, my dear brothers, constantly growing in the holy life; cease not to do good, for in your time you will live in Heaven forever. Amen." (Jan Hus)

A visit to the Czech Republic during Lent is the best time to see the villages flower with children's processions with green sprigs, brightly painted eggs and ribbons on birch rods.

In Prague's Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměstí), trees are decorated with brightly colored ribbons in red, yellow, blue, pink and green. Hanging from tree branches are colored Easter eggs. Around the base of the trees are Paschal equivalents of nativity scenes, with the Easter Bunny sitting cozily in straw, surrounded with decorated eggs of all sizes and more colored ribbons.

All these festive decorations are complemented by musicians and traditional music floating through the main thoroughfares. The well-practiced veterans of jazz and Dixieland music play engagingly in parts of the Old Town (Staré Město) and on Charles Bridge (Karlův most). A grandstand is erected in Staroměstské náměstí where dancers of all ages perform customary dances in traditional costumes.

In 1995, for instance, the public had the chance to see 42 stands selling traditional artistic handicrafts and more. The organizers planned various competitions in the holiday spirit. Every day, from April 7th to 17th of that year, there were concerts and performances, celebrating the holiday's folk traditions.

Lent is also a time for spring house-cleaning, baking, painting and getting ready for Easter in general. Large drawers are filled to capacity with all kinds of homemade cookies and cakes. Baskets with hard-boiled, hand-painted eggs stand ready in a cool pantry for the big celebrations on Easter Sunday and Monday. Everything is ready for the two big days, including new clothes and shoes.