A GIANT MASK! Photo taken in Pilsen.
Mardi Gras in New Orleans is my current dream trip, but in the meantime, Czechia’s Masopust is a fun alternative! This version of the pre-Lent celebration usually takes place in villages, with central participants parading through the streets in costume with a small group of violinists and a bassist, knocking on doors and offering shots or wine to the villagers, who give them smoked meat in return – as it’s the last chance to stuff your face with it. (After a while, Czech celebrations all start to sound the same…)
Masopust is a Czech word that means “meat fast.” I always laugh about it though, because “fast” in CZ means something totally different from the typical American (and in particular, Jewish) conception of not eating or drinking anything – it just means you don’t eat meat, for a day or even half a day. (That’s a long enough time for Czechs.) Fašank is from German and only some villages use it- I have sometimes asked people if they will celebrate Fašank and they didn’t know what I meant.
Falling in late February or early March, Masopust is coincidentally at a similar time as the Jewish costume party holiday Purim (which will be March 12 in 2017). Purim, however, is based on the story in the Book of Esther. The link will bring you to Prague Chabad’s celebration.
In 2015, I went with my friend Trishia who was also a Fulbrighter, and we met a Lego man!!!
That was probably one of the most awesome experiences of my life and it cemented Fašank in Česká (a village in South Moravia, near Brno) as one of my favorite events of the year. Some people really do go all out, and often with homemade costumes. For example…
In 2016, Ondra and I rocked a steampunk theme. Exactly one person recognized us.
My goggles were impressively steampunk, though you can’t see them well in the photo. Now I use them to protect my eyes whenever I cut onions, to feel cool.
And that year I had the pleasure of meeting a Czech cactus, which I didn’t know existed in Central Europe 😉
I relish the opportunity to show off my impressively random collection of masks. And I really enjoy the dancing (mostly valčík and polka) and table of many different kinds of meat and špekáčky (bacon fat), as well as koblížky (small fried doughnuts).
On “Fat Tuesday,” there was a parade at school where students dressed up as an assortment of characters like jesters, hockey players, assassins, and animals… and one teacher and some students even played violin:
Meanwhile, I dressed as a babka, a Czech grandma character who carries a basket…with another grandma? Remember, just don’t ask questions.
And over the weekend, I attended an event called 100% Masopust at Bajkazyl in Brno, a very different take on the celebration – it was a vegan Masopust!
It’s also sorta hipster-punk. They served me my beer in a canning jar 😀 (at least it wasn’t a Mason).
You paid 75 Czech crowns at the entrance and got a 5-course meal of vegan Masopust classics:
This was tlačenka, also known as “head cheese” or “brawn”:
It’s a speciality of the Czech “pig killing,” (warning, graphic photos in the link) and embeds pieces of pork in gelatin, topped with onions. It typically looks like this…
You can see that although the vegan version didn’t stay together well, it was rather tasty, using tofu and tempeh instead of pork.
My favorite meal was Prejt, which, instead of blood sausage, was sort of like a loaf of lentils and sunflower seeds. Not bad. Not bad at all.
How did you spend your pre-Lenten celebration?