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In the US, common Easter traditions include attending church and spending time with family, dyeing and hiding eggs, gifting children baskets full of goodies and dressing up in spring finery. Do you know that Easter is celebrated in 95 other countries around the world? And some of their festivities are quite different from those practiced here in the United States.
I love learning about other countries and others cultures. See how many of these Easter traditions from around the world are familiar to you.
Let’s start with a 130 year old tradition in the US. The White House hosts the annual Easter Egg Roll on the south lawn. Children roll colorful hard boiled eggs across the lawn using large serving spoons. The event also offers music, and egg hunt, sports and crafts.
In Australia, rabbits are considered pests that destroy crops. In 1991, the country replaced the symbolic Easter bunny with the Easter bilby, also called the rabbit-eared bandicoot. You can purchase chocolate bilbies for Easter and the proceeds benefit Australia’s endangered animals.
In Norway, the Easter season is a popular time to read detective novels and watch crime shows. The unconventional tradition began in 1923 when a book publisher advertised its new crime novel on the front page of newspapers. The ads, made to look like a news article, caught the attention of readers who didn’t realize they were promotions. The tradition continues today with new crime novels releasing around Easter and crime dramas playing on television. All over the country, people spend the weekend with whodunit shows and books. Even milk cartons carry short detective stories on their cardboard sides during this time.
Easter celebrations last all weekend in Bermuda. The holiday begins on Friday with the Good Friday KiteFest. All over the island, locals and visitors gather to show off their homemade kites and send them soaring into the sky. During the weekend people eat codfish and hot cross buns. Sunday sunrise services on beaches are a fitting end to the weekend.
Every Easter Monday, the day after Easter Sunday, the town of Bessieres in southern France, serves up a giant omelette. Using more than 15,000 eggs, the omelette feeds the entire village. According to local stories, the tradition began with Napoleon and his troops traveling through the south of France. They stopped in this small town for a meal, eating omelettess. Napoleon enjoyed the meal so much that he ordered the townspeople to gather all of their eggs and make a gigantic omelette for his army the next day.
Easter meals in Russia include knobs of butter molded into lamb shapes. In ancient times lamb were considered lucky. The Russians believed the devil could take on the form of any animal, except a lamb. Their religious symbolism protected the lambs.
In the medieval town of Verges, in Spain, the “death dance” is held on Holy Thursday. Townspeople reenact the Passion, dressed in skeleton costumes. Passion comes from the Latin word for “suffering” and is connected to Christ’s crucifixion. Processions wind through the streets with skeletons carrying boxes of ashes. Dancing begins at midnight and concludes at 3:00 am.
Smigus-dyngus is a Polish tradition carried out on Easter Monday. People try to drench each other with buckets of water, squirt guns, water balloons…anything they can carry water in. According to legend, the girls who get soaked with water will marry within the year.
Each year on Good Friday, the Pope commemorates the Way of the Cross. He begins at the Colosseum. People joining the procession carry candles and walk around the amphitheater and up to Palatine Hill, stopping 14 times along the way. This walk represents the 15 Stations of the Cross. Mass is celebrated Saturday evening. And on Sunday morning, thousands gather in St Peter’s Square to await the Pope’s blessing from the church balcony.
Traditional pot throwing takes place on Holy Saturday, on the Greek island of Corfu. From their balconies and windows, people throw pots, pans and other clay or earthenware containers into the street. These pots are frequently filled with water. The custom originated with the Venetians who threw out old items on New Year’s Day. It also symbolizes welcoming spring crops in new pots.
Christians celebrate Good Friday in Jerusalem by walking the same path that Jesus did on his way to the cross. Many participants carry a cross with them, in remembrance of Jesus’ crucifixion. On Easter Sunday a church services take place at Garden Tomb.
Locals in Florence, Italy celebrate a 350 year old Easter tradition called Scoppio del Carro, “explosion of the cart”. Fireworks fill an ornate cart. People in colorful 15th century costumes lead the cart through the streets, stopping in front of the Duomo. The Archbishop of Florence lights the fireworks during Easter mass, setting off a lively display. The custom dates back to the First Crusade. It ensures a good harvest.
A popular Easter tradition in Hungary is observed on Easter Monday. Boys playfully sprinkle perfume or perfumed water on girls, after getting their permission to do so. During the older version of this custom, the boys poured a bucket of water over the girls’ heads. Today they spray perfume and ask for a kiss. The young ladies dress up in traditional clothes.
Papua New Guinea
This is perhaps the most unusual Easter tradition that I discovered. With the high temperatures and humidity in Papua New Guinea, eating chocolate during the Easter season isn’t a “thing”. Instead, the locals celebrate in their own way. They decorate the trees outside their churches with packets of tobacco and cigarettes. After the Easter Sunday services, worshippers divide up the tobacco. This tradition increases church attendance on Easter Sunday!
What Are Your Easter Traditions?
When my kids were young, we dressed up and attended church together. The “Easter Bunny” delivered goody filled baskets and the kids played all day, hiding and finding colored eggs. Now, with my children grown and parents of their own babes, I simply gift my kids and grandkids with small presents.
I like the traditions of flying homemade kites, reading crime novels and watch out…throwing water! My children and grands better beware. Mostly, I love learning how other cultures celebrate holidays. It’s fun and educational too.
What are your Easter traditions? And did you find any in the list above that surprised you?
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