Welcome to the March 2015 newsletter! While I have enjoyed winter and have wished for a few more snowy days now that springtime is so close (officially beginning on March 21st) I am looking forward to it. Blossom is already sprouting on the trees that adorn my street and leaving the office with the sun still in the sky is certainly welcome. In this month’s introduction I’ll be reacting to the Oscars and running through some of my favourite yearly events from this time of year.
Firstly let’s step into the glitzy and glamorous world of cinema. I’m sure I’d feel right at home on the red carpet! On the 22nd of February it was the 87th Academy Awards ceremony otherwise known as the Oscars. It’s my favourite awards show of the year and I enjoyed it very much. While I agreed with the majority of the award winners and liked the speeches and presentation as whole I feel my favourite films were overlooked somewhat. Gone Girl, on the surface is about a murder investigation after Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) goes missing and her husband Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) is the prime suspect. However, you guessed it – all is not what it seems. When I first saw this I thought it would surely be one of the top nominated films of the year and while Rosamund Pike received a Best Actress nomination (which she lost) the film deserved a Best Film, Best Actor and Director nominations for Ben Affleck and David Fincher respectively.
The Imitation Game my other favourite film tells the true story of Alan Turing who helped win the Second World War by solving the enigma code and deciphering secret messages but who was later prosecuted for his homosexuality (which was illegal at the time) and later physically and mentally deteriorated. While this film fared better at the Oscars receiving 8 nominations only the film screenwriter Graham Moore walked away with a gold statuette.
The first yearly event in March I want to cover is one very close to my heart – St. Patricks Day. My brother is called Patrick and I believe he was the first child born in my country, Czech Republic, to take that name. At the time he was named you were supposed to choose names based on the calendar but the day he was born had no names assigned to it so he was called Patrick after the Irish celebrations.
It’s origins go a long way back and it has been celebrated since the ninth century and was made an official Christian feast day in the early seventeenth century. Traditions include the wearing of green clothes, which has long been associated with Ireland due to its national plant the shamrock (three-leaved clover). It is a day of parades, drinking, eating and the Irish government now use the day to showcase the best aspects of their country to the world. Energy and excitement is created throughout Ireland via innovation and creativity and provides the opportunity for people of Irish descent (and those who sometimes wish they were Irish) to attend and join in the imaginative and expressive celebrations.
I have friends from all over the world and one event my Hindu friends have told me about over the past few years is the event Nyepi. It is known as the day of silence, fasting and mediation and self-reflection in Bali, Indonesia and when observed everything on the island comes to a complete standstill. This year it takes place on March 21st. The celebrations start the day before with ritual processions and then continue the day after which is also celebrated as a New Year’s Day.
At the start of April there is another major event I look forward to all year (and not just because it’s a four day weekend) – its Easter! Easter Sunday is a festival and holiday celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, which is described in the New Testament as having occurred three days after his crucifixion. This year it takes place over the weekend of the 3rd to the 6th April.
Since its origins, Easter has been a time of celebration and feasting where many different traditional Easter games and customs have been developed. Exchanging and eating Easter eggs is popular in many countries. Here in the UK before they were replaced by hollow chocolate Easter eggs real chicken eggs were used. The eggs were hard-boiled and dyed in various colours and patterns. The traditionally bright colours represented spring and light. Now, children believe the Easter Bunny leaves chocolate eggs out in the morning or hides them in the garden for an Easter Egg hunt.
I’ve talked about the traditions we indulge in in the Czech Republic for Easter last year and would like to highlight these again now. There is the tradition of “patting” or “tapping” is carried out on Easter Monday. During the morning, men will attempt to tap women with a special handmade whip called a Pomlázka. Additionally, men also throw cold water on women. The Pomlázka consists of eight, twelve or even twenty-four willow rods – usually ranging from half a meter to two meters in length and decorated with a variety of coloured ribbons at the end. It’s important to note that tapping is not a painful act, rather a fun tradition.
In fact, it is stated through ‘legend’ that women should be tapped with a Pomlázka in order for them to keep their health and beauty for the following year. This is also chance for men to demonstrate their attraction to the women they like. In return, the women give the men a coloured egg, a shot of alcohol and sometimes a small amount of money as a sign of her thanks. In some regions women gladly take their revenge on the man during that afternoon or the following day by pouring a bucket of cold water on any man they wish.
Another tradition and symbol of a Czech Easter is our signature hand-painted eggs (Kraslice). Girls decorate these Easter eggs to give to boys on Easter Monday. There are many different Easter egg decorating techniques; with the more elaborate designs requiring a high level of skill. The range of materials used include: bee’s wax, straw, watercolours, onion peels and picture stickers. Most commonly, designs consist of geometrical patterns, but you can also see flowers, leaves and snowflake patterns using a whole array of different colours. The sky is the limit when decorating eggs – the more flamboyant the better! A nationwide Easter egg contest is held in Prague and other Czech cities.
I’d like to thank you all very much for reading this month’s newsletter. Whether you’re drinking on St. Patricks Day, observing silence on Nyepi, being whipped in the Czech Republic or gorging on Easter Eggs in the U.K. I hope you have a lovely month.