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Czech Masopust Carnival

Photographs by Vladimir Pomortzeff

Masopust means 'farewell to meat' in Czech language. This popular carnival custom has preserved only in six villages in Eastern Bohemia, Czech Republic. Ceremonial door-to-door processions take place here every year in the end of winter just before the Christian Lent. Participants of the Masopust parade go from house to house, dance, sing and taste traditional treats and alcoholic drinks. The authentic Czech Shrovetide processions have been inscribed in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.

1. Four young men dressed as the Turks perform the ceremonial dance to the accompaniment of the local brass band during the Shrovetide procession in the village of Vítanov near Pardubice, Czech Republic. The Masopust parade has the mandatory set of carnival characters. The youngest and unmarried village boys depict the Turks. There are only four of them, two red ones and two blue ones. The Turks have to dance from morning to evening in the every courtyard, earning food and alcohol for other participants of the procession. For all this they only have a chance to be the Chimney Sweeps next year.


2. The Chimney Sweeps do much more pleasant job during the Masopust parade. They have to throw all the villagers down into snow and then smear their faces with soot or shoe polish. Unmarried young girls are the most wanted for this task, although teachers from the local school are also in demand


3. The next traditional carnival character is not very politically correct by today's standards. This old man dressed in rags is the Jew. During the procession the Jews offer to villagers to buy some expensive and useless things like old Soviet badges.


4. A mistress of one of the houses with her face smeared with soot and shoe polish offers glasses of slivovitz, Czech plum brandy, to the participants of the procession.


5. The Chimney Sweep throws the next village girl down into snow.


6. The character wears a straw suit is Mister Straw. His presence in the procession has a hidden erotic context. Village women who want to become pregnant next year have to ask Mister Straw to throw them into snow.


7. A carnival participant dressed as the Mare drinks slivovitz. Another mandatory characters of the Masopust parade are the Mare and the Knacker. In the end of the procession the Knacker has to slaughter the Mare. However, just for fun. Few minutes late, the Mare magically comes to life after a glass of plum brandy.


8. Young men dressed as the Turks.


9. The Chimney Sweep throws a village woman down into the snow and smears her face with soot.


10. The Master of Ceremonies, an another important carnival character, walks through the snow covered landscape with a bottle of tuzemak, a traditional Czech distilled beverage.


11. The Masopust parade starts early morning before dawn. During the day the carnival participants have to visit all houses in the village, dance three ceremonial dances in the each courtyard and taste cooked treats and beverages. Although the carnival people are very busy this day, they also stop passing cars to collect some fee for transit through the village.






14. A mistress of one of the houses offers slivovitz to a carnival participant dressed as the Knacker.


15. A man chops firewood for the mobile oven for cooking sausages.


16. The Straw Man and the Chimney Sweeps pass by the Crucifix next to the village church.


17. Two carnival Jews.


18. The Master of Ceremonies and the Turks.


19. An old woman looks through the window as the Turks perform the ceremonial dance.


20. The village boy with his face smeared with soot and shoe polish by the Chimney Sweeps.


21. The Spotted Man or the Laufr has to lead the Masopust parade.




23. The procession goes from the village of Vítanov to the nearby village of Stan. Two villages form one municipal unit, so the carnival participants have to visit all courtyards in both localities during the day.


24. A young girl attends the Masopust parade with a local brass band.


25. The Masopust parade starts early in the morning and finishes in the evening.


The photographs of this feature were shot in January 2013 in the village of Vítanov near Pardubice, Czech Republic.

Copyright Š 2013 Vladimir Pomortzeff

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