Czech Easter - Holy Week: Ugly Wednesday
Contributed by Petr Chudoba

Czechs call the Wednesday of Holy Week Škaredá středa ("Ugly Wednesday"). Another name for it is "Spy Wednesday". This name is to remind people that on this day Judas betrayed Jesus.

One reason that the baking had to be finished by Tuesday is that on Škaredá středa the whole house must be turned out from top to bottom and all the soot cleaned out of the chimneys. Naturally, this requires that the stove be cold. No time is wasted on the usual kitchen work; the meals are very casual and light.

Carpets, couches, armchairs and mattresses are carried into the open and every speck of dust beaten out of them. Women scrub and wax the floors and furniture, change the curtains, wash the windows; the home is buzzing with activity.

After the interior is fully cleaned, the entire cottage is then also whitewashed on the outside as well. This has to be done quickly as everything has to be back in place by Wednesday night, glossy and shining.

This traditional spring cleaning is, of course, to make the home as neat as possible for the greatest holiday of the year, a custom taken over from the ancient Jewish practice of a ritual cleansing and sweeping of the whole house as prescribed in preparation for the Feast of Passover.

Kids finish school on Škaredá středa, which is a good idea because they need to help with all this cleaning and decorating! They also need to spend some serious time preparing for the serious days to follow, in preparation for Easter.

The Moravian houses in the Podluľí region blossom with the fleeting flowers of spring painted on the windows with soap or made on the porches or in the yards with water or sand. The window linings, wine cellar, chapel portals and rooms are also decorated with new ornaments.

There is a superstition that anyone eating honey on this day will not be bitten by serpents. In some places, they eat bread smeared with this honey for protection against snakebite. It would be nice to think that this custom arose from a Biblical allegory. God's words are likened to honey in the psalms: "How pleasing is Your word to my palate, sweeter than honey." (Psalm 119:103 JPS) And are not God's words protection against Satan who, in the Bible, is often compared to a serpent (see especially Revelation 12:9 and Revelation 20:2)?

In other places they throw honey-buttered bread into wells so they will have water in them all year round.

Škaredá středa is the last Wednesday before Easter. On this day everyone is supposed to smile at each other. If they don't, the entire year will be a sad one. It is said that people shouldn't frown on this day for fear of frowning every Wednesday throughout the year!

Sources include: My Czech Republic (