Czech Masopust or Fašank starts with the so called Fat Thursday (Tučný čtvrtek) and its prominent character Master Pronobus (pán Pronobus).
The Thursday before the main Masopust events is called Fat because of the tradition to cook meals rich in fat. On this holiday the households wake up to the smell of fried donuts (koblihy) and roasted pork. Lunch is usually accompanied by beer to wash down all the grease.
Even though this holiday and its customs have been forgotten in many places, if one tradition persists, it’s making donuts. And how did Czechs celebrate this magical day in the “ancient” times? First of all, no one worked. The house was cleaned day before and the only work was cooking and taking care of the animals. The wives gathered for a chat while the husbands discussed their affairs over a beer or two in the local pub. Everyone was home before dark because sunset was the time when Master Pronobus walked around the village.
One fried donut was left to dry then made into powder and added to the food for sick animals.
In the evening young people put on costumes that would later be worn in the Masopust processions. The most important of them all was Master Pronobus whose task was to convince people to give the people in the costumes something good to eat and maybe even a coin. Pronobus usually wore a sheet of paper from the sugar cone for hat and walked in pair with another man dressed as a woman. He entered the household wishing the family merry masopust:
|“Já, pan Pronobus,|
vinčuju vám šťastný a veselý masopust,
abyste šišky, báby smažili
a mně taky něco darovali.
Ať je šiška nebo bába,
to má huba všecko ráda.”
|“I, Master Pronobus|
Wish you a happy and merry masopust.
You, women, fry šišky
And give me some.
Whether a šiška or an old hag,
The mouth likes it all.”
And then he danced with one of the women in the household.
If you wonder where the name Pronobus came from, it’s from the Latin expression pro nobis (“for us”) because he was asking people for donations “for them” – meaning the costume procession.
You can still find some villages and towns, whose masopust starts with the walk of Master Pronobus and his group of costumes.
Autor of the drawing: Richard Lauda