While we in the US are partial to hunting for eggs and feasting on chocolate handed out by a giant bunny, here is how the rest of the world celebrates Easter.
(image via Niels Linneberg)
Happy Easter! In Bermuda and other Caribbean countries, Good Friday is celebrated by eating some delicious hot cross buns and then going outside to fly a kite. This tradition is said to have originated when a teacher from the British Army was having difficulty explaining to his Sunday school students how Christ ascended to heaven. In order to demonstrate what happened, he constructed a kite shaped as a cross, and set it free into the sky. The demonstration illustrated the story beautifully, and now every year traditional Bermuda kites fill the sky for Easter.
(image via A Grumpy Englishman in Norway)
God påske! In Norway, it’s Paaskekrim or “Easter-Crime” time! Easter is such a popular time for Norwegians to read crime novels that publishers actually come out with special “Easter Thrillers” known as Paaskekrimmen. Many families enjoy the last of the cold weather by escaping to the mountains for the week beginning the Friday before Palm Sunday and ending the Tuesday after Easter Monday. During this week, people pass the time by reading these mystery books or watching crime detective series on TV. What better way to spend Easter than by getting cozy and spending some time in your cabin up in the mountains?
Христос Воскрес! (Khrystos Voskres!) Ukraine is famous for its colorful eggs, Pysanka. Pysanka are not painted; instead, designs are drawn on in beeswax and the egg is then dipped into dye. The dye colors the exposed part of the egg, but leaves it untouched where the wax protects it. The process is repeated multiple times, resulting in an intricate, layered pattern. During Soviet rule, decorating eggs for Easter was banned as a religious practice. However, the tradition was kept alive by many crafters working in secret. The beautiful eggs (along with other seasonal food) are placed in a basket with lit candles, and brought to church on Easter morning for blessing. After Mass, families celebrate Easter morning with a feast from their Easter baskets – starting with the eggs.
Bònn fèt pak! In Haiti, a brilliant and colorful music festival known as ‘rara’ takes place throughout Easter week. Performances generally begin on Ash Wednesday and culminate at Easter Weekend. The traditional rara orchestra consists of three goatskin drums, followed by bamboo trumpets, metal horns, maracas, and finally a chorus of singers. Rara performances are often given while marching, and are usually accompanied by people twirling metal batons. The occasion is a mixture of Catholic and Vodou traditions, and Vodou believers make an annual pilgrimage to the village of Souvenance for the event. Showing devotion to the spirits, the celebration is marked by drumming, chanting and animal sacrifices.
(image via epicurious)
Joyeuses Pâques! If you’re feeling hungry on Easter Monday, Haux might be the place to go. This town in the south west of France is famous for making omelets of epic proportions in its town square. These omelets are SERIOUSLY big – an omelet this size means that lunch is served for up to 1000 people. The story goes that Napoleon was once passing through the countryside and stopped in a small town to order an omelet. He enjoyed this food so much that he ordered the townspeople to gather all their eggs, and demanded a giant version be made the next day to feed himself and his army. Last year’s effort was almost 10 feet in diameter and used 5,211 eggs, 21 quarts of oil, and 110 pounds each of bacon, onion, and garlic.
(image via finland.fi)
Hyvää Pääsiäistä! If you answer the door in Finland on the Sunday before Easter, you may be greeted by little witches offering to bless your home in return for treats. In this Finnish tradition, children dress up as Easter witches in brightly colored clothes, wearing scarves on their head and painted faces. They carry broomsticks and willow twigs decorated with colorful feathers and crepe paper, and offer blessings to drive away evil spirits, in return for treats. Traditionally, they will recite: irvon, varvon, tuoreeks terveeks, tulevaks vuodeks; vitsa sulle, palkka mulle! (translation: I wave a twig for a fresh and healthy year ahead; a twig for you, a treat for me!) As with Halloween in the US, many Finnish households will prepare by stocking up on treats for the children who come and knock on their door.
(image via gazetaostrowska.pl)
Wesołych Świąt Wielkanocnych! If being drenched in water isn’t your idea of fun, you might want to avoid the streets of Poland on Smigus-Dyngus (Easter Monday). The custom of young men splashing unmarried girls with holy water began as a playful custom intended to inspire romance. Since then, it’s evolved into an all-out water fight. People soak each other with buckets of water, water guns or anything they can get their hands on. Traditionally, boys throw water over girls and spank them with pussy willow branches. (The willow is the first tree to bloom in the spring, so the branches are supposed to transfer the tree’s vitality and fertility to the women). The girls get their own back by soaking the boys on Easter Tuesday. Dyngus Day may be familiar to those in Polish American communities, most notably in Buffalo, New York which hosts the largest continuing event celebrating the day.
(image via pappaspost)
Καλό πάσχα (Kaló pásha)! Easter is generally a time of classic tradition in mainland Greece, but they do things a bit differently on the island of Corfu. On the morning of Holy Saturday, the traditional “Pot Throwing” event takes place, and it’s exactly what it sounds like: People gather to throw pots, pans and other earthenware off their balconies, smashing them on the street below. Some say the custom derives from the Venetians, who would throw out all of their old belongings into the street on New Year’s Day. Others believe the throwing of the pots welcomes spring, symbolizing the new crops that will be gathered in the new pots. One thing’s for sure – you have no chance of peacefully sleeping in on Holy Saturday with all that racket.
¡Felices Pascuas! Easter Week is a festive time in Spain, with parades and religious processions taking place all over the country. The town of Verges however has a more frightening twist on this holiday, and is unique for its “Dance of Death” held on Maundy Thursday. The dance begins Thursday evening with a group of actors and dancers reenacting moments in the life of Christ and his miracles. While this may sound like standard Easter fare, the performance has a dark nature, focusing on the betrayal of Judas and the death of Christ. By all accounts, this first act is rather long, but it’s worth sticking around for what comes next. At midnight, the second act begins with a creepy procession of skeletons dancing in the streets as Jesus walks to his death. The dancing skeletons are surrounded by figures in black cloaks, and they carry items such as scythes, flags, a clock without hands and plates of ashes. The celebration is a moving religious tribute with a nightmarish twist that may make you miss the Easter bunny.
(image via germany.info)
Frohe Ostern! Eggs are perhaps the epitome of Easter decoration, and an exceptional example is Saalfelder Ostereierbaum, a famous Easter tree in Saalfeld, Germany. Every year since 1965, the Kraft family has decorated an apple tree outside their home with a spectrum of painted and embellished Easter eggs, starting with just 18 plastic eggs. The tree grew, and the Krafts blew out almost all the eggs used in their household each the year and reused the eggs each time. What began as just 18 eggs is now an epic collection requiring nearly two weeks to hang. Last year’s tree was dressed with 9800 eggs, many painted in extraordinary detail with scenes from local landmarks and world famous monuments alike. Some eggs are perforated for decoration, and many others are carefully covered in crochet netting and sequins to protect them from further weathering. Others are enhanced with clay for transformation to shapes such as frogs, turtles, hedgehogs, and hot air balloons.