While you’re stuffing your face with hot cross buns and hordes of chocolate eggs, what’s the rest of the world up to?
It probably feels like Christmas just ended and you’ve only just worked off the mince pie pounds, but Easter weekend is here!
In preparation, I’ve found some of the world’s most exciting ways of celebrating the season.
Some seem a little bizarre, but to be fair, we do run around gardens searching for chocolate eggs left by a giant bunny with a basket…
Here are my top 10 most eggcelent (sorry I had to) traditions around the world:
While we celebrate with fluffy bunnies and cute little chicks all over the house, the Norwegians have the slightly more sinister season of ‘Easter-crime’, or Paaskekrim.
It’s the time to whip out your old favourite mystery book. In fact, most head to the nearest bookshop to purchase a new ‘Easter thriller’ specially published for the season. Then the evenings are for sitting down with the family to enjoy the annual crime detective series with the rest of the nation.
It’s thought that the tradition started in 1923 when a book publisher promoted its new crime novel on the front pages of newspapers. However, the advertisement reflected the current news so much that people assumed it was a true story!
Legend has it that a local teacher once struggled to explain Christ’s ascension to his Sunday school in Bermuda. His homemade cross-shaped kite, rising to the heavens, was the perfect illustration.
Now, every Good Friday, the kids (and many adults) hit the streets to fly their beautiful coloured kites. Made from bright tissue with long tails and wooden crosses, half the fun is showing off your creation.
Before the big event, the Bermudians will tuck into a breakfast of codfish cakes and hot cross buns!
Poland has a unique tradition of water fights! Sounds like the best way to celebrate if you ask me.
The refreshing event is thought to have its origins in the baptism of Polish Prince Mieszko in 966 AD.
With the wonderful name of Smingus-Dyngus, Polish boys spend Easter Monday chasing girls with buckets of water and water pistols. Apparently, the belief is that a soaked girl will marry within the year!
As always, the Mexicans celebrate in an abundance of fun and style.
Mexico‘s Easter festivities are held for a combination of two separate important observances – Semana Santa and Pascua. The former means the whole of the Holy Week, in recognition of the last days of Christ’s life. The latter celebrates Christ’s Resurrection and the release from the sacrifices of Lent.
On Palm Sunday weaved palm fronds are sold outside the church and then hung at doors to guard against evil.
All through the season, passion plays narrate the entirety of the story. From the Last Supper to the Betrayal, the Judgement, the Procession of the 12 Stations of the Cross, the Crucifixion and finally, the Resurrection.
The plays are enacted by artists wearing eye-catching costumes with beautiful staging. Many spend the whole year preparing for their role in the festivities. The finale often involves the burning of a Judas effigy, filled with firecrackers.
The Procesión de Silencio is another incredible scene to witness: thousands march through the streets holding candles in dead silence.
Then when the more serious celebrations are over, people head out for the night in masquerade outfits to enjoy food, drink, dance and general merriment!
5. Sweden and Finland
While the British love a good Easter bonnet, the Scandinavians prefer the pointed black hats of witches.
According to folklore, on Maundy Thursday, all witches board their broomsticks and fly to the mountains to cavort with the devil. So naturally, children dress up in spooky outfits, armed with kitchen pots and bundles of sticks, to celebrate.
The tradition is to then go from door to door trading artwork for chocolate and sweets. I know, it sounds a little like they’ve muddled up their celebrations. Is their Halloween celebrated with egg hunts and biblical parades?
Then when Easter Sunday comes, many will light a bonfire in an attempt to chase away the last of winter darkness and ward off any returning witches.
Watch your head if you’re heading to Greece for the Easter holidays. The traditional ‘pot throwing’ takes places on Holy Saturday on Corfu. Pots, pans and other crockery of all shapes and sizes are thrown from windows, smashing on the street below.
There are two theories as to its origins. The first is that it welcomes spring. They belief that throwing pots is symbolic of the season’s new crops being gathered in the replacement pots!
The other derives from the old Venetian custom of throwing out old items from windows on New Year’s Day. Whichever it is, it’s definitely a dangerous time to be out and about in Corfu.
This one is definitely my favourite…
On Easter Monday each year, an enormous omelette is served up in the town’s main square. Enormous is not an overstatement: 5,000 eggs are whipped together to feed the 1,000 residents of Haux.
The story goes that when Napoleon and his army were travelling through the South of France, they stopped in the town for the night and all ate omelettes. They were so delicious that Napoleon ordered the townsfolk to gather all their eggs and make a giant one for his army the next day.
Cusco is one of the most vibrant cities during the Semana Santa (Easter week) celebrations. The Inca capital’s Easter observations revolve around the Señor de los Temblores-Lord of the Earthquakes.
His statue was supposedly sent by the King of Spain in an attempt to convert the local Indians. During a major earthquake on May 31st 1650, locals removed the statue from the church and the earthquake miraculously stopped.
Ever since the statue has been a worshipped by the locals. On Easter Monday, the symbolic six-hour parade across Plaza de Armas and its surroundings is devoted to the earthquake lord.
Food, as with many countries, is another major aspect of Easter in Peru. It represents both gratitude and celebration as the fasting of Lent comes to a close.
It’s customary to taste twelve different traditional dishes on Good Friday. These range from soups and fish mains to delicious candy apple desserts.
Cusco also hosts a series of agricultural fairs to allow people to buy their Easter foods. To accompany the fairs, the horsemen of the area perform elaborate equestrian displays to show off to the people of the city.
A plethora of colourful parades marks Haiti’s holy week. Stemming from both Catholic and Voodoo traditions, it’s musical and sacrificial festivities for all.
Funky traditional ‘rara’ music played on bamboo trumpets, maracas, drums, and even coffee cans, fills the streets. For Voodoo believers, it’s the time for the annual pilgrimage to the village of Souvenance.
Sacrifices, drumming and chanting are used to show devotion. Bearing goat heads and other strange animal parts, they make their offerings to the spirits.
Most celebrate the religious time with a long weekend; Ecuador however, has an Easter Week. As a country known for being deeply rooted in their religion, the Easter period is taken very seriously.
On Good Friday, festivities begin with a spectacularly colourful procession. The last days of Christ are depicted through re-enactments, imaginative outfits and men carrying huge crosses through the city.
Only the churches and cathedrals are open on Good Friday. They become so packed that many people are left waiting in long queues in the hope of joining one of the day’s many ceremonies.
The traditional dish served is prepared from twelve different grains, representing the twelve disciples. Fish representing Christ is also served alongside.
‘Saturday of Glory’ brings musicians, dancing and joy. The streets come alive with people and parades as a more relaxed and fun day brings families together.
Easter Sunday is then another day of services, centred upon reflecting on religious beliefs and the sacrifices made by Christ.
Many will also take food to the graveyard of their ancestors on this day, as a mark of remembrance and respect.
So I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about Easter traditions around the world.
Go enjoy your customary chocolate eggs, church services and huge roast dinners. Perhaps, however, you could also include a quick Polish water fight or even throw a pot out the window like they do in Greece!
Let us know in the comments below if you think we’ve missed out any other interesting traditions across the globe.
Have a great Easter!