ash wednesday
Holidays Easter Culture & Science

Ash Wednesday, Beginning of Lent

Ash Wednesday is the first Wednesday after Masopust and it’s the first day of the Lent period. Let’s see what the Czechs used to do (and some still do) on this day.

First things first, the Ash Wednesday (Popeleční středa) is sometimes incorrectly called Ugly Wednesday (Škaredá středa) and vice versa. However, these are two different days, while the Ugly Wednesday is a part of the Easter week, the Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the Lent period right after Masopust and before Easter.

According to the 11th century custom, a priest makes a cross with ashes (popelec) on people’s foreheads on the first day of the Lent, this is where the name of the day comes from. This cross is supposed to remind people of the transience of the earthly life. The ashes used in this ritual was made from last year’s catkins that were given a blessing and then burnt. The cross was made during a mass that was quiet and the image on the main icon was covered with the so called hunger cloth of purple color. After the mass, men sometimes went to the pub to “wash down the popelec“. People also had their first Lent meal, usually vegetables such as pučálka.

According to Alena Vondrušková, Czech folklorist, the custom around Ledeč nad Sázavou was that a man went around the houses in the village looking for the lost masopust and people gave him leftovers from the celebrations.

This was the beginning of the long period of restrain not only from meat when people slowed down in every aspect of their lives and patiently awaited the coming of spring and Easter. But first, there are six Lent Sundays to come.

Would you like to know more about the Czech Easter, what happens and what are the customs and traditions? Browse the category Easter.


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