Rattling Their Ratchets

The Czech Easter celebration is renowned for its eggs and Easter Monday whipping (pomlazka)! This is when men and boys go from door to door to whip girls in return for eggs while singing traditional Easter songs. The eggs are exquisitely decorated, and the whips, which are made from willow twigs, are adorned with colourful ribbons.

However, in Doubravice, a small village of just 230 souls about 120 km south of Prague, the Easter celebration is quite different. There are no whips, or whippings, in the village. In Doubravice, it is all about noisemaking ratchets. They come in many sizes, and most of them work by waving them in the air, which causes them to spin with a loud clatter.

For centuries now, on the evening of Maundy Thursday, a group of children walk through Doubravice vigorously rattling their ratchets and making a noise that can be heard from far away. The rattling is supposed to chase away Judas and ward off evil.

On Good Friday, children continue to rattle through the entire village. They make three different excursions; the first very early in the morning, then at noon, and then in the evening. At six AM on Holy Saturday, they walk rattling with their ratchets one more time through the entire village. Then they rush home to have a quick breakfast before meeting up once again. This time, they go from house to house (and there are over 60 of them) and rattle in front of each door until it opens. Then they sing the traditional Easter carol and rattle again while they are given fresh eggs, sweets and money, which they then split among themselves.

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