Although Easter in the Czech Republic is not as popular as Christmas, and some prefer the extended spring weekend to the actual traditions, foreigners usually find this tradition appealing. This is probably because the ancient traditions involved may sound incredible when heard for the first time. Some are appalled (mostly women) when they discover that men spank women with Easter whips (pomlázky), and some smile mischievously with a desire to try it (mostly men). Foreigners usually don´t know these Easter customs unless they have Czech relatives.
At the beginning of this particular thematic lesson, special objects were placed on the table for students to guess what they were and what they are used for. There was a whip and ribbons; eggs and colours; a rattle and a bunch of willow branches with buds (kočičky). Of course, the biggest discussion occurred around the whip when students discovered that it is not just an Easter decoration for the apartment. Some students knew the rattle from their own countries, albeit a different version. Everyone recognized the eggs, but each person had a different theory as to what they are used for. Finally, all students whose countries celebrate Easter shared their traditions with the class and suggested possible uses for the eggs (from decorations/gifts to an egg fight).
However, this was nowhere near the full extent of the lesson and other activities followed. Students learned new verbs that relate to the objects and that describe Easter activities: weave (the willow whip), spank (with Easter whip), decorate (eggs), bake (Easter cake), pour (water) or drink (a shot). They also learned the names of individual Easter days and what food is typical for Czech Easter. They were very surprised that Czechs drink green beer on Maundy Thursday, and during the lesson they tasted some of our Easter dishes, including a whole butter lamb and an Easter cake, and naturally no one forgot to wash it down with a shot of Slivovice (Moravian plum brandy).
The icing on the cake was when we provided everyone with the possibility to dye their own eggs using onions. First, the students bound their eggs and flowers inside stockings, then, everyone anxiously waited for their handiwork to be cooked. In the end, everyone took home their beautifully decorated creations.
There was a great atmosphere in the lesson, and despite the fact that only English was spoken during the egg-dyeing part, it did not matter, because the aim was to convey the experience of a traditional Czech Easter, and in that we succeeded. A similar friendly spirit is expected in the next Friday lesson, so do not hesitate to come!