Travel

A Man Covered in Hay Tours Czech Villages Every Easter and Nobody Knows Why

by Adam Holý
10 April 2015, 6:00am

This article was originally published by VICE Czech Republic/Slovakia

Easter is one hell of a mystical holiday with a slew of religions constantly calling dibs on it. Christians, pagans, chocolatiers – literally everyone has tried to take advantage of the fact that some guy was supposedly crucified 2015 years ago by inventing bizarre customs in an attempt to cleanse their body and soul before spending another year filling both with filth again.

In the Philippines, some people actually get crucified. In the Czech Republic, we chase women around with sticks instead. You know – so they don't dry out in the coming year. But wait – we have one more.

Another visually interesting Czech Easter ritual has been kept alive in about a dozen villages between Holice and Vysoke Myto in Pardubice county. It's called "Vodění Jidáše", which in English roughly translates to "Marching Judas", and it's said to have its roots in the 16th century, though no one really knows exactly where it came from.

On the morning of Holy Saturday, each town's residents flock to the local cowshed to dress up their eldest teenager in sheaves of hay, while on his head they place a tall pointy hat made of reed. That kid is supposed to represent Judas. Followed by a throng of children, he then has to walk around the village while pushing a wooden cart and reciting a poem about Judas burning in eternal hell.

The townspeople open their doors and give Judas eggs, sweets and money in reward. Towards the end of the day, the children lead Judas to a hill outside the village (get the symbolism here?), take a few pictures with him, rid him of his suit, burn it, split the bounty and go home to eat it for lunch. It's all basically very Halloween with a True Detective spin.

This past weekend, I visited a tiny village in Moravia called Stradoun to experience the festivities myself and take these photos.

Text by Tomáš Zilvar