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Czech Holy Week: White Saturday

Bílá sobota (White Saturday) is the last day of the Lenten period and here are some of the Czech traditions connected to this day.

This Saturday is called white because white are the robes of people who are christened during the Easter vigil. Because of the candle light during the vigil it’s also sometimes called Světlá sobota or Světelná sobota (Light Saturday or Saturday of Lights). Just like Great Friday it’s a day of strict fasting (lunch would usually be spring herb broth), however, it ended at sunset, after which meat was allowed again. Not only is there no food, but also no mass. And do you remember how on Green Thursday the church bells “flew to Rome”? They come back to ring at the vigil. Sometimes people brought logs to church and lit them on fire for a while. Then they would use them to light fire at home.

What about the more pagan traditions of our ancestors though? First of all, young girls ran to the nearest river to wash their faces because they believed it would prevent them from having freckles. Houses were swept with new brooms (broom making was a common craft, here you can watch a short documentary) and sometimes whitewashed, just like on Grey Tuesday.

Girls and women baked traditional lamb pastry (sponge cake in the form of a lamb) and also mazanec (recipe here) while the boys and men braided whips from willow branches for the upcoming Monday.

People usually wore their “Sunday best” which, in the case of our ancestors, would be the traditional kroj which varies according to region.

There are several interesting Czech weather sayings about this day, here are two of them:

“If it rains on White Saturday’s night, the cherry harvest will be small.”

“The direction from which the wind blows on White Saturday is the direction from which the rain will come in summer.”

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