Easter goes from boisterous to spiritual as Czechs enter second year of tight restrictions

Photo: ČTK/Václav Šálek

Czechs are heading for a second Easter marked by coronavirus restrictions. Although people will have more time to dwell on the spiritual aspects of the holiday, there are concerns that for many the loss of loved ones and fears of what the future will bring will make the loneliness of the present days that much harder to bear.

Traditionally Easter in the Czech Republic is a time of get-togethers; families meet, neighbours enjoy a few shots of home-made plum brandy and barbecue, carollers go from home to home, sweethearts give each other painted eggs and boys chase girls to give them the traditional “Easter whipping” with braided willow branches.

Photo: Zdeněk Bobčík,  Czech Radio

None of that is going to happen. There is a state of emergency in place and people have been advised to spend Easter with close family members only. Travel between districts for non-essential reasons is still banned and there is a night curfew in place between 9pm and 5am.

Shops will be closed on Friday and Monday, although people will be able to shop for essential goods at the weekend. Farmers‘markets, which usually do good business around Easter, are banned and after some initial confusion the Ministry of Trade agreed to allow the sale of Easter decorations.

Recreational sports activities outdoors are allowed, with an accent on individual sports. People, biking, running or hiking in remote areas can do so without a face mask but must remain within their district.

The night curfew will be briefly lifted for those who wish to attend Easter mass – but due to the distancing rules in place churches will only be able to accommodate a few believers – the rest will have to watch the Easter masses online.

The usual Easter processions and the traditional foot washing ceremony on Maundy Thursday will not take place. People attending mass will have to have a respirator, respect social distancing rules and will not be allowed to sing.

Dominik Duka,  photo: ČTK/Michaela Říhová

The Archbishop of Prague, Cardinal Dominik Duka, told Czech Television that the Easter mass from St. Vitus Cathedral, which he traditionally celebrates, will be streamed live. The Cardinal said he was heartened by the fact that 8,000 people had watched the mass online on flowering Sunday –far more than could fit into the cathedral which accommodates 6,000 people without distancing rules in place. The Cardinal said that the main message this Easter would be that the restrictions in place do not mean people cannot reach out to those in need in other ways.

“Many of us will come out of this test stronger and more open. But for some the ordeal will be hard to bear and may leave lasting scars. Not just from the loss of loved ones or because they will suffer long-term effects from Covid. A great deal will depend on us all. Because we can alleviate some of their pain if we are more empathic and more considerate of others.”