5 Tips for Celebrating Masopust Like a Czech

Do you know the meanings behind the masks? The difference between Fat Tuesday and Thursday? A must-read masopust primer

Expats.cz Staff Jason Pirodsky

Written by Expats.cz StaffJason Pirodsky Published on 09.02.2018 12:12:33 (updated on 09.02.2018) Reading time: 3 minutes

The Czech celebrations for Masopust – the local incarnation of Mardi Gras – see several weeks of colorful street parades taking place in both Prague and farther afield. These re-enactments of the ancient rites and rituals leading up to the Lenten season promise three-days of pageantry and feasting. With a 700-year-old history in the Czech lands, masopust is truly a folk custom for the ages.  Grab a mask and get into the festivities like a local:

Fat Tuesday or Fat Thursday? Get Your Days Straight

Epiphany begins on January 7 and ends on Shrove Tuesday (or Fat Tuesday) which is the day before Ash Wednesday and begins the 40 days of Lent. Fat Thursday, however, is six days before Ash Wednesday and marks the traditional beginning of the carnival festivities in many European cultures.

In Moravia, masopust is called fašank / Photo via YouTube

And don’t be surprised if you hear masopust referred to as maškara, meaning “fright”, the old world for masopust; in Moravia it’s called fašank.

Go Crazy for Kobliha

Whether you eat them on a Thursday or a Tuesday, masopust wouldn’t be masopust without kobliha. Buy them (we highly recommend Maso a Kobliha in Prague or one of these Expats-approved donut shops) or whip up a batch in your own kitchen – no pre-Lenten feast is complete without these custard- or jelly-filled and sugar-sprinkled delights elsewhere known paczki.  See Five Sinful Czech Fat Tuesday Treats for recipes for additional Czech masopust treats.

Know Your Costume Symbolism

If you’ve joined a masopust parade in the past you may have noticed some recurring mask motifs – namely bear costumes, gender-confused brides and grooms, a menagerie of animals and occupations, and towering clown hats. Many of these costumes represent fertility rites (especially the bear who takes a symbolic twirl with the single ladies), prosperity, and the driving out winter. Other popular costumes include granny-in-a-basket and the still-relevant-today parody of unpopular officials. Czechs have a way of creating fantastically ornate ensembles verging on folk art.

Must be #masopust

A post shared by Elizabeth Zahradnicek-Haas (@elizabetka_z) on

Sit Down to Fatty Pork Feast

The fruits of the traditional zabijačka, or hog slaughter – boiled pork, black pudding, blood sausages or head cheese – can be found on menus throughout Prague and the Czech Republic during carnival season. In fact, the ritual pig-sticking is so important to Czech culture that it is portrayed on the astronomical clock in Old Town as well as depicted in the works of Czech painter Josef Lada.

Enjoy a Carnival Brew

Most local breweries devote a tap or two to a masopust special this time of year, typically a stronger, dark beer often enhanced with ingredients like green pepper to aid digestion from all that feasting. Two of note: Únětice brewery’s Carnival Bock 16° and the masopust semi-dark beer from Strahov brewery in Prague.

Photo: via www.pivnici.cz

Here’s a list of local masopust celebrations for 2018; tradition says if you party past midnight on Fat Tuesday, you risk seeing the devil in a green jacket. In order to avoid such an unpleasant encounter, musicians used to “bury the bass” to signify the end of carnival revelry – you’ve been warned!

Where and how do you celebrate masopust season in the Czech Republic?

Would you like us to write about your business? Find out more