Roast Sunday (Second Sunday in Lent) In the Czech lands, this Sunday used to be called Roast Sunday after a simple fast meal was prepared by roasting unripe grain ears or individual grains. This was one of the oldest ways of preparing grain for use, and was also a suitable way of preserving it. After roasting, it was further treated, and possibly ground and used for cooking a soup. Sneezing Sunday (Third Sunday in Lent) This was called Sneezing Sunday because on that day the Czechs held Masses to avert the plague. One of the first symptoms of the plague was excessive sneezing. The saying God bless you!, which we still wish a sneezing person, has its origin in the fear of the plague. Later on, the supersitition that sneezing clears the head led to the popularity of snuff, so much so that sneezing and taking snuff were common on that day. People believed that the number of times one sneezed on that day would equal the number of years that they would have yet to live. Matchmaker Sunday (Fourth Sunday in Lent) This Sunday was almost in the middle of Lent, so it became the occasion to celebrate the time of fasting that had already passed. Mild entertainment was allowed and some restrictions were lifted. For example, dances were organized, but only in public places under the supervision of the whole village. This Sunday was sometimes called Matchmaker Sunday because this was a time for the matchmaker to visit, together with the groom, the parents of the prospective bride in order to discuss courting and other matters.Special matchmaker cakes used to be baked for the matchmaker and the groom. Passiontide and Passion Sunday Passiontide is composed of the last two weeks of Lent, from Passion Sunday (Smrtná neděle) until White Saturday (Bílá sobota). As a liturgical season, it is older than Lent, having been established by the Church as a period of fasting as early as the third century. During the first four weeks of Lent, the spirit of personal penance prevailed, but these last fourteen days were devoted entirely to the meditation of the Passion of Jesus. Passion Sunday is the second Sunday before Easter and the fifth Sunday in Lent, appointed for meditation on the Passion of Jesus. Among the Slavic nations Passion Sunday is also called Silent Sunday and Quiet Sunday. In the Czech Republic, Passion Sunday is called the Black Sunday or Death Sunday (Smrtná neděle). On the eve of Passion Sunday the crucifixes, statues and pictures in the churches are draped in purple cloth as a sign of mourning. This custom originated in Rome in the thirteenth century, where in ancient times the images of the papal chapel in the Vatican used to be shrouded when the deacon sang the concluding words of the Sunday Gospel, Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple (John 8:59 NKJV). The liturgical services of Passiontide are based on what happened to Jesus during the last days before His death, leading up to the mysteries of the Passion. The Mass texts are dominated by the thought of the Just One, persecuted by His enemies, as He approaches the supreme sacrifice on Golgotha. In the Divine Office of Passiontide the famous hymns of the Holy Cross (Vexilla regis and Pange lingua, gloriosi lauream) are sung or recited. Psalm 42 (Introibo) is omitted at the Mass, as is the Gloria Patri in the Divine Office. These changes, however, are probably due to reasons other than the liturgical memory of the Lords Passion. Smrtná neděle: Death Sunday and the Death of Morena Winter, the season of the year when vegetation is dormant, is a time of cold, often stormy, weather, and short days. Darkness comes early and the resulting atmosphere is one of gloom. Before the development of modern lighting when candles, pitch pine and the fire on the hearth provided the only illumination the atmosphere created by darkness was even more unpleasant. The peasants of Europe believed that the demons of winter were everywhere, lurking in the shadows of house and barn, in the fields and woods, and especially in dark places. Signs and symbols of these demons were to be found in the cold atmosphere, the leafless trees, the barren ground, and the brown grass. Only the death of winter could dispel all this darkness. In the Czech Republic, the symbolic death of winter occurs on Black Sunday (Smrtná neděle), fourteen days before Easter Sunday. In the Bohemian Forest, among the Chods, its customary to prepare a dummy (named Morena), who represents the old winter or Death. Like winter, the dummys face must be ugly! The figure is fashioned of straw or sticks, dressed in old white clothes (to symbolize the snow), and decorated with old rags and a necklace of eggs. The whole ceremony, called vynáení Moreny or vynáení Smrtky, is organized by children and young people dressed in traditional folk costumes. It is accompanied by songs celebrating the oncoming spring and awakening nature. The villagers carry Morena about the fields while the younger marchers in costume sing sad funeral music. They parade to the river, swinging Morena from side to side, and singing: We are carrying out the winter And bringing in the springtime. After the girls remove her clothes, Morena is beaten to pieces, her straw burned, scattered to the winds, or drowned in running water. As she is thrown into the river and floats away, the people shout: Death is floating down the river, And spring will soon be here. This ceremony is supposed to show that everything dead or dying must be done away with to make way for spring. After the dead winter is thrown into the stream, ivot (Life) or jarní čas (springtime) is carried about in the hands of the marchers. These are represented by small fir trees, decorated with gaily colored eggshells, red apples, and chains of flowers or bright ribbons, like miniature Christmas trees. They form groups and go caroling from house to house, announcing the coming of spring in song and collecting ingredients for holiday cakes and other gifts. This festivity can be seen in Valasko, Horňácko, Českomoravská vrchovina or in the Chodsko or Blata regions. In the Podluí region, the same ceremony is done with a twig decorated with painted eggs. Special types of cakes are baked and symbolic ornaments are painted on thousands of egg shells to be sold by old village women at market places all over Bohemia and Moravia. In the Bydzov region, they used to put flax behind the windows in the belief that no one would die in the house during the entire year if they did.