Easter customs vary widely from one corner of the world to another. Some of these customs, such as the Easter egg hunt, may seem familiar to most of our readers, as Easter egg hunts are organized in many countries across Europe and other parts of the world. Other customs may strike readers as unusual and are specific to regions. Read below and discover some of the most interesting Easter traditions.
On Easter Saturday morning, a traditional 'pot throwing' event takes place on Corfu, Greece. People throw clay pots and bowls out of their windows, which then crash on the street. The custom is believed to come from the Venetians who used to throw away old things on New Year's Eve. Others claim that throwing away pots and pans welcomes spring and symbolizes the new beginning and that crops will be harvested into the new pots and pans.
In most countries, it’s common to dye eggs for Easter, but the Cyprus natives only use one dye color-red. Based heavily on Christian tradition, the red color symbolizes the shed blood of Christ and it’s also the color of joy because of the Resurrection. Eggs traditionally dyed on Holy Thursday are eaten on Passover, shortly after the Easter night service. Before that however, the Cyprus natives have a little game of “egg knocking”. Every person takes one egg and taps the egg of another. Whoever manages to crack everyone else’s egg without breaking their own, wins. The winner is supposed to be lucky all year round.
Easter in Italy is a period of cultivating very interesting traditions dating back several hundred years. An unusual and spectacular custom called Scoppio del Carro takes place on Easter Sunday in Florence. On this day, a cart filled with fireworks is set on fire in front of thousands of locals and tourists. The event relates to the Resurrection of Christ, but its origins date back much earlier to the pagan cult of harvest. Many Tuscan people believe that the explosion bodes well for a good harvest and guarantees a prosperous life for the next year.
Another interesting tradition is held on Easter Monday in the town of Panicale in Umbria, where locals organize a cheese rolling competition, the so-called Ruzzolone. It’s a 300 years old tradition dating back to the Etruscan times. The competitors use wooden poles to roll a wheel of Pecorino cheese along a course and the goal is to do it with the least number of strokes.
If you are in Haux in the south of France on Easter Monday, make sure you take your fork with you. Every year a giant omelette is served on the city's main square. More than 4,500 eggs are used and can feed approximately 1,000 people! The tradition is said to have its roots in the Napoleonic times, when Napoleon and his army travelled through southern France. In Haux they stopped for food and the locals served omelettes. Napoleon is said to have been so impressed by their taste that he had the locals gather all the eggs and make a huge omelette for his army on the next day.
Although searching for Easter eggs is a tradition held in numerous countries all over the world, it seems that the Easter Egg Roll that takes place in Washington is the most well-known. Organized each year on the White House lawn for over 130 years, the game has very simple rules: children are supposed to collect as many eggs they can find. The one who gathers the most eggs is the winner. After a successful hunt, children take part in another competition - rolling eggs on the lawn. You have to get to the finish line as soon as possible without breaking your egg on the way.
Children from this Nordic country dress up as witches, paint their faces, tie scarves on their heads, carry willow twigs decorated with feathers and ask people on the streets for chocolate eggs. In some parts of western Finland, fires are lit on Easter Sunday - a Nordic tradition based on the belief that flames drive away witches that fly on brooms between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
The Czech Republic
If you’re planning to visit the Czech Republic for Easter, you better look around carefully! There is a custom here that on Easter Monday men jokingly smack women with switches decorated with ribbons. The willow is the first tree to bloom in spring, so it’s believed that its branches give women the vitality and fertility the tree is well known for.
In Poland too, you should watch your back on Easter Monday, otherwise you’re in for an unexpected cold shower. There’s a popular tradition of pouring one another with water on that day – it could be anything from a water pistol to even a full bucket! Traditionally, it was boys who would try to pour water onto girls, but these days anyone can end up getting soaked, regardless of their sex.
Easter rites in the Philippines spark controversy every year. This is due to Good Friday celebrations, which are accompanied by a painful ceremony of self-flagellation and the authentic nailing of volunteers to the cross, with 10-centimetre nails! Although the church clearly calls for the cessation of these drastic practices, the bloody processions generate unwavering interest in this most Christian Asian country. The ritual takes place in San Pedro Cutud near Manila and is a great attraction for tourists from all over the world who come there every year.
In Verges (Girona), Holy Thursday is celebrated in a very special and rather ghastly way: in the streets of the city there is a night parade of five skeletons who dance to the rhythm of drums. This Danse Macabre is an eerie ceremony, in which five people dressed up as skeletons wander the streets of the city illuminated only by the light from torches. The skeletons are accompanied by the residents dressed in black, long robes. The "Dance of Death" is a theatrical preface that is an integral part of the Verges procession and symbolizes fragility of people's lives.
Ireland has one of the most interesting Easter customs, including the parade that takes place on Holy Saturday and is led by a local butcher who holds a stick with a herring loaded on it. The ritual symbolizes fasting, as during Lent most people would eat fish as a sign of self-denial and sacrifice. People taking part in the march hit the herring with various objects, expressing in this way their fatigue with fasting and their willingness to start celebrating. Finally, the herring is thrown out and replaced with a ram's leg, which is decorated with flowers. This marks the end of the fasting period.
On Easter Saturday, Mexicans traditionally take part in the 'Judas burning' ceremony. According to the several dozen years old custom, paper puppets depicting Judas, the devil or any other personification of evil are burnt on that day. Originally, puppets depicted Judas Iscariot, but today, apart from the biblical figure, there are also skeletons and politicians who got into Mexico’s bad books. In recent years, the most popular puppets are those of Donald Trump, who is depicted as the devil with horns, donkey ears and bite teeth.
Throughout Africa, a lot of attention is paid to decorating houses and churches. Churches and prayer houses are adorned with decorations called "vitenge" and "kanga". The decorations in the shape of butterflies are made of flowers and banana leaves. As you may expect, the artistic part, especially singing and drum playing, is also an important part of the whole ritual.
In some parts of Germany, it’s a popular custom to decorate trees with colorful eggs. The tradition of Ostereierbaum dates back many centuries. The most well-known tree of this type, called Saalfelder Ostereierbaum, is an apple tree located in the garden of Mr. Volter Kraft, who has been decorating his tree since Easter of 1965, every time with more and more lavish results. Last year, he decorated his tree with as many as 700 eggs!
In Denmark, the tradition of sending poems to family members or friends is still alive. Instead of a signature, the author of a poem puts as many dots underneath it as there are letters in their name. During the Easter meeting, you have to guess who has sent you the poem. A person who fails to correctly identify the author must give them a chocolate egg as a gift.