Written by Kristyna Elisakova and Tereza Klencova
Learn more about Spring Welcoming
During Spring Welcoming Czech people celebrate the end of winter and reborn of life in nature with an ancient ritual. This ritual is an ancient pagan tradition, which was mainly used from 1366 to 1384 and then the importance of this tradition started to decline. Since 19th-century people had known this tradition just as a game for children, but nowadays it’s being renewed by local folklore groups.
This tradition was usually done on Sunday, which was called “smrtná” in translation it means deadly and this day was two weeks before Easter. Western Slavs opened the way for Spring by symbolical destroying of a goddess of death and winter, they burnt her and then drowned her in the water. The water a river or stream was flowing and alive, and then they welcomed Spring with colorful ribbons and cheerful singing.
The start of the ritual is simple, young, single girls or young people carry out a straw figure, called Morena, Morana, Mařena, or Smrtka (in English Banshee or Death), while singing and doing a ceremonial dance. Old people were only watching this ritual. This figure or goddess represents death, illness, misery and everything that harms people. Morana is dressed in a beautiful woman’s dress, scarf on her head and beads of eggshells on her neck. These eggs represented ruination. Girls were singing and going with this figure from house to house in their village and got eggs, butter and sometimes some coins from their neighbors. At the end, they carried Morana out of the village or town and set her on fire and then threw her in the river, so she could not damage anyone anymore. On their way back to the village or town they brought new Spring, which was a tree called “lítečko” or “májíček”. This tree was decorated with ribbons, paper doves and other decorations mainly in red and green color. Sometimes this tree was replaced by a little doll, hand carried that was kept for another year.
As it was said the young people, girls, and boys were singing ceremonial songs that are connected with spring welcoming, for example, the oldest one that is shown is in the Farming calendar from 1617.
“Již nesem smrt ze vsi, nové léto do vsi. Vítej, léto líbezné, obilíčko zelené.”
“Now carrying death from village, new summer to village, come lovable summer, green grain.”
But there were many songs used, as “Leto, leto, kdes tak dlouho bylo?U studánky, u studánky, ruce, nohy mylo.”Translation “Summer, summer, where have you been so long? At waterhole, waterhole, washing my arms and legs.”
Spring welcoming is also close-knit with one specific recipe called “pučálka”, which was mainly eaten in Moravia on deathly Sunday (“Smrtná neděle” in Czech). “Pučálka” is food that consists of peas, which are kept in water for three days and when it soaks up (in Czech “napučí”) you put a pan, add salt and pepper then you roast it. This specific dish can be sweet or salty version, but you have to eat it immediately after it’s done, so it would taste good.