Easter is overThe end of Easter in Prague, Czech Republic. (photo: Leonardo Sagnotti/Flickr, cc by-nc-nd 2.0)

In the Czech Republic, a tradition of spanking or whipping women is carried out on Easter Monday. On Easter Monday morning, it is customary for girls and women to stay at home while the boys and men, usually dressed in nicer clothing and sometimes even in kroj — traditional costume — go door to door of female relatives and/or friends, bringing greetings, singing Easter carols, demanding the right to spank the women with a special handmade whip called a pomlázka and/or splash them with cold water or perfume for good luck and fertility, and demanding “treats” (eggs, chocolate, liquor, or a peck on the cheek) as their reward.

The splashing of water is intended to oblievat — to “water” the females present. Water is the symbol of life and the pouring of water is a gesture meant to bestow year long health, beauty, and fertility. Some men spray perfume instead of water, or both. The splashing of water can range from a teaspoon dribbled on top of the head, to a bucket thrown over the head, to a full body dunking in a bathtub full of cold water.

PomlázkyPomlázky, willow switches photgraphed at Brno’s Zelní in Easter 2006. (photo: Jesse Johnston/Flickr, cc by-nc-sa 2.0)

A pomlázka consists of eight, 12, or even 24 willow rods, usually measuring from half a meter to two meters in length, which are braided together and decorated with colored ribbons at the end. There used to be a tradition that women would add their own ribbons so the whip would say how many women the particular man has already visited, but it seems to have fizzled out. The spanking normally is not painful or intended to cause suffering. The purpose of the spanking for women to bestow health, beauty, and, most importantly, fertility for the spring and entire year.

Usually women are chased around (if they decide to make it interesting or to play along) or they just stand motionless and allow the male visitors to spank their butt. After being spanked or splashed, the women must give candy or money to a boy, and liquor or a small amount of money to a man as a sign of her thanks.

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This is very interesting! It reminds me of the tradition that led to the naming of our month February. The use of a a febrare, a whip made of goat or dog skin, I believe, was used to hit the women for the purpose of ensuring fertility and luck. It's funny because we have Valentine's Day, and I believe it's the same date as this feast that they would do the pagan parade. Valentine's is the vestigial remainder of the old festival after it was borrowed to encourage conversion to Christianity. I believe the old rite was devoted to Pan. It's been awhile since I read about it; need to fact check!

I believe Tricia is thinking of the Lupercalia, an early Roman tradition:

The sacrificial feast followed, after which the Luperci cut thongs from the skins of the victims, which were called februa, dressed themselves in the skins of the sacrificed goats, in imitation of Lupercus, and ran round the walls of the old Palatine city, the line of which was marked with stones, with the thongs in their hands in two bands, striking the people who crowded near. Girls and young women would line up on their route to receive lashes from these whips. This was supposed to ensure fertility, prevent sterility in women and ease the pains of childbirth. This tradition itself may survive (Christianised, and shifted to Spring) in certain ritual Easter Monday whippings.


Hello - thanks for your thoughts on Czech Easter! Also, thank you for featuring my photo of te pomlázky from Brno.

I really enjoyed reading this post, and I just wanted to point out the correct spelling of Easter Monday in Czech is: velikonoční pondělí. 

No, it's we who should be thanking you for licensing it as Creative Commons. It's so helpful for a small outfit like ours. And, I will look into correcting the spelling of Easter Monday. BTW, would you prefer to be credited as Jesse Johnston?

Yes, that'd be great if you can use that credit, not a big deal though!

(I don't mean to be pedantic about the spelling. If helpful, there's a very comprehensive online CZ-EN dictionary at: http://www.slovnik.cz/)