Masopust: Mardi Gras the Czech way

Masopust is a carnival celebration that roughly translates to “meat leaving” or “goodbye meat”. Like many carnivals, it is a celebration before Ash Wednesday and Lent. Festivities usually are largest starting “fat Thursday” instead of Tuesday like mardi gras. Czechs in rural areas will start the festivities by slaughtering a pig for their feasts. A meal of roast pork with sauerkraut is traditionally served and the day is filled with eating and drinking for strength and happiness for the rest of the year.

Sunday is when the real festivities begin, a rich feast, followed by dancing, fun, and drinking. On Monday and Tuesday, the festivities do not stop; the days are filled with food and drink. Those who participate in parading around dress up as animals and creatures of lore. While others dress up as chimney sweeps, cow herders and ringmasters, while noisily singing, shouting and dancing, the costumed characters make their way from house to house, where they're treated to food and drink. Those parading around usually end in a pub, where the eating, drinking, and merrymaking often continue until morning.

On Tuesday even more parading and merriment is to be had. The celebration ends at an inn where the women of the village have made a pasty wreath that's been beautifully made. The women dance around the wreath forming a circle protecting it. While the men of the town attempt to enter the ring and grab a piece of the garland. Once someone is successful the rest of the wreath is cut up and auctioned to the rest of the town. When midnight arrives the festivities end, as the time of fasting has arrived, and the families return home in observance of Lent. Like most other celebrations once lent begins the people eat lentils, eggs, and vegetables until it is over cutting out meat entirely.