Travel

Teens Covered in Hay Walk Through Czech Villages Every Easter and Nobody Knows Why

The "Vodění Jidáše" tradition can be a bit confusing, but at the end of it a bunch of kids get candy.

by Adam Holý
Apr 10 2015, 11:55am

This article was originally published on VICE Czech Republic/Slovakia.

Everyone is always trying to take advantage of the mystical and spiritual energies of Easter. Christians, pagans, chocolatiers—literally everyone has tried to take advantage of the fact that some guy was supposedly crucified roughly 2,000 years ago by inventing bizarre customs in an attempt to cleanse their bodies and souls 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. But that's not the only odd ritual we have.

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 oldest 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 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. Toward 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 basically 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