Holy Week in the CR - Part 2

Discussion in 'Culture' started by easthigh69, Mar 12, 2000.

  1. easthigh69

    easthigh69 Member

    Škaredá středa: Ugly Wednesday

    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 Podluží 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!

    Zelený čtvrtek: Green Thursday

    Maundy Thursday commemorates Jesus’ last supper with His disciples and the institution of the Lord’s Supper. Holy Thursday is called Maundy Thursday in English from the old Latin name for the day, “Dies Mandatum,” i.e. “the day of the new commandment.”

    With this day begins the so-called Holy Three-Day Period, among the most significant days of the Church year. This Holy Three-Day Period (Thursday, Friday and Saturday) was a time of holy obligation all through the Middle Ages. The Christian people, freed from servile work, were all present at the impressive ceremonies of these days. Due to the changed conditions of social life, however, Urban VIII, in 1642, rescinded this obligation. Since then the last three days of Holy Week have been classified as working days, despite the sacred and important character they bear, which was powerfully stressed by the renewal of the liturgical order of Holy Week in 1955.

    Zelený čtvrtek (Green Thursday) is how the Czechs and Moravians refer to Maundy Thursday. One explanation is that in many places, before the thirteenth century, green vestments were used for the Mass that day. Another is that this is a reference to “the Green Ones,” the penitents who, being re-admitted to the Church, wore sprigs of green herbs to express their joy. The “grün” in the German name for the day (“Gründonnerstag,” literally Green Thursday) does not derive from the name of the color but is a corruption of the word “greinen” (weinen, to weep).

    A strict fast used to be observed on Green Thursday. Because only a single, meatless, comoplete meal – free of any food of animal origin – was allowed, only vegetables were eaten. Thus, Green Thursday. The eating of green vegetables is still a customary part of the meals served on this day in many parts of Europe and, to some extent, in the United States. The Czechs and Moravians eat a soup of green herbs, followed by a green salad.

    According to another explanation, Jesus prayed on a green meadow in the Garden of Gethsemane.

    On Zelený čtvrtek in the Czech Republic, the children must go out very early in the morning and bathe – naked! – in the river. This is supposed to be a cure for laziness. And when they come in, shivering and complaining that they’ve just been made to do something they would be punished for in summer, when they would enjoy it, the rope-like jidášky are eaten. Jidášky are served with honey at breakfast. These breakfast cakes, made to look like rope, suggest the fate of Judas Iscariot, who “went and hanged himself” (Matthew 27:5 NKJV) in remorse after he had identified Jesus to His enemies.

    Before sunrise, the owners of horses in Slovakia lead them to the river and into the water to a depth of two feet or so. It is believed that this will bring the horses good health and sound feet for the entire year.

    It is believed that the floor and the bedding should be beaten with a willow blessed on Palm Sunday. The house should also be sprinkled with holy water from a new pot with a wisp of straw.

    In Slovakia, the housewives diligently sweep around the home, the yard and the street to ward off harm to the home for the coming year. During the course of this Thursday, the women wash the wooden boards upon which they make noodles. They also wash the rolling pin, the large wooden mixing spoon and the bowl used for mixing the dough for bread and koláče.

    In the evening of Zelený čtvrtek in the Czech Republic, the village boys used to equip themselves with a wooden rattle (řehtačka), which was specially made for the purpose. They formed a group and walked through the village, rattling their rattles vigorously so the noise could be heard from afar. The meaning of the rattling may have been to chase away Judas. The same procedure would repeat on Good Friday (Velký pátek). The last rattling day was White Saturday (Bílá sobota), when the boys didn’t just walk through the village, but stopped at every house in the morning and rattled until they were given money which they could then split between themselves. This custom ceased to exist around the beginning of last century.

    The racket they made served as a substitute for churchbell ringing during Holy Week, a time when all church bells were believed to have flown to Rome on Zelenýčtvrtek to make a pilgrimage to the tomb of the Apostles, or to visit the bishop of Rome to be blessed by him. The bells then would sleep on the roof of St. Peter’s Cathedral until morning on Bílá sobota, when they would return, bringing glad news and colored eggs.

    The men in the countryside rise at midnight on Zelený čtvrtek and walk to the nearest brook to wash themselves. They do this in honor and imitation of Jesus Who – according to legend – tripped and fell into the Brook Kidron on His way to His hearing before the high priest.

    In the Czech Republic, the hawthorn tree is supposed to weep on this day. According to tradition, it is the tree from which the crown of thorns was fashioned. Of all the plants mentioned as the source of the torturing crown, none is better known than the hawthorn. So abundant are its white blossoms in spring that its long, spiny thorns are hardly noticeable, but they are capable of inflicting a painful wound and their sharpness is soon apparent when branches are carelessly handled.

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