Easter is here! Whether or not you join in on the traditional Christian celebrations, Easter means it’s Spring Break, which means–if you’re fortunate enough–you’ll have a few days to escape from your 9-5 routine! You can either take a few days to recharge at your favourite spot (it’s ok if that is your warm and welcoming bed) or perhaps you’ve chosen to go explore a new destination. Regardless of how you celebrate or don’t celebrate Easter, vacation time is always welcome!
So in the spirit of having some free time to learn something new, here is a list of different Easter traditions from around the world:
Finland & Sweden: Children Play Dress-Up
Who said Halloween was only celebrated in October? In parts of Finland and Sweden children dress up as witches armed with twigs and pots and go around knocking doors asking for treats. This is followed by a huge bonfire on Easter Sunday that was traditionally believed to scare off the evil spirits and witches that were flying around.
Eastern Europe: Water Fights
In parts of Eastern Europe, like Poland, Easter traditions involve a water fight with people using water guns or buckets to wet each other on Easter Monday. This is mainly done to women, as it is believed to bless them with youth, health, and fertility. In Hungary, this tradition involves sprinkling perfumed water and in Slovakia, this tradition is sometimes accompanied with whipping ladies (gently, we hope) using willow branches.
In Haux, France a huge omelette is prepared using over 4000 eggs to feed 1000 people. Legend has it that Napoleon and his army visited the town and ordered a huge omelette for the troops, and so the tradition of creating a huge omelette continues.
Catalonia, Spain: Dance of Death
On Maundy Thursday a Dance of Death is held in in the Catalonian town of Verges. People beating drums and wearing skeleton costumes dance around the street to symbolise the final judgement. Every year the streets of this town are full of spectators who pay to watch the fascinating and festive procession.
Greece: Pot Throwing
In Corfu, Greece pots are thrown from balconies and windows onto the streets as a way to welcome springtime and new crops. Legend has it this tradition derives from the Venetian practice of throwing out their old items on New Year’s Day.
Latin America: Destroying Judas
Many Latin American countries create effigies representing Judas and publically destroy them as an Easter Week celebration. Throughout the years these effigies have taken the form of politicians or other public figures who have wronged the country. In Brazil, these straw dolls are hanged and beaten in the street, while in Venezuela these are typically burned like “Mr Exxon” in 2008.
Guatemala: Colourful Carpets
In honour of Easter the streets in Antigua, Guatemala are covered with beautiful and intricate carpets made from coloured sawdust. The designs on these carpets have a stunning combination of Mayan roots, biblical symbolism and scenes from nature. These carpets are used to adorn the streets where the Easter processions pass, carrying floats with statues of Christ.
Bermuda: Flying Kites
On Good Friday, the Caribbean island of Bermuda is full of food, and locals gather to look at the millions of colourful kites that are in the sky and fly one themselves. It is believed that as a former colony, Bermuda held on to a tradition introduced by a British teacher who used a kite to explain Christ’s ascension to heaven.
Latin America & the Philippines: Passion Play
Devout Catholic communities in Asia and Latin America reenact the Crucifixion on Good Friday. The Philippines, a predominantly Catholic nation with Spanish colonial roots, carries out this ritual at the eyes of thousands of onlookers every year. Penitents sign up to imitate the suffering of Christ and have real nails hammered to their palms and feet, carry heavy crosses or crawl around on their hands and knees.
Australia: Bilby vs Bunny
As opposed to the traditional Easter Bunny, in Australia there have been efforts to replace the bunny with the bilby. This is an effort to raise awareness of the bilby, a native animal on the brink of extinction. Bilbies have similar features to rabbits and kangaroos (aka they’re adorable), so chocolate bilbies are not so far off from chocolate bunnies–and just as tasty.