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Czech Holy Week: Ugly Wednesday

The Wednesday of the Holy Week before Easter is called škaredá or sazometná. The first one means “ugly” while the second word would be translated as “on which the soot is swept out”.

Just like Grey Tuesday the Ugly Wednesday (known by English speakers as Holy Wednesday, Spy Wednesday or Good Wednesday) is a day for the spring cleaning. On this particular they the chimneys should be swept and of course, all the soot should be swept out of the house. It continues the work started on the previous day that meant not only cleaning the house but in a way was also a spiritual cleansing and people believed that their work would rid their homes of any negative energy.

Food cooked on this day – although delicious – was served in an ugly way. For example, if the wife made bramboráky, she would break them (that is the origin of the meal called trhance). Our ancestors also used to bring wooden logs to the church where they charred them. Then they “planted” them in the corners of their fields together with some green twigs to ensure good harvest.

This all explains the name sazometná středa – Wednesday on which the soot is swept out. But what about škaredá středa – Ugly Wednesday? It is because according to the Bible Judas betrayed Jesus on this day. However, according to a Czech tradition, we shouldn’t put on sad or any ugly faces on this day because then we would be stuck with this face on every Wednesday of the year.

Probably the most popular tradition kept until today is baking the so called jidáše or jidášky – sweet pastry in the shape of letter J to remember the rope loop on which Judas hung himself. You’re supposed to let the pastry rest until the Green Thursday and smear them with honey before eating.

Some people mistake the name of this day for the Ash Wednesday (Popeleční středa).

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