We’re all familiar with Easter eggs and hot cross buns, but here are some more unusual Easter traditions from around the world. Who knows, you might want to incorporate one or two into your own family’s Easter repertoire. Others you’d be better off leaving well alone…
Dressing up as witches
In Sweden and parts of Finland, children dress up as witches with brooms, old-fashioned skirts, headscarves, and clown-style blusher and freckles. They also carry copper kettles to fill with treats as they go from house to house exchanging homemade paintings and drawings for sweets. It’s like Halloween in spring. The tradition stems from a belief that witches flew to a volcano in Germany to cavort with Satan. People lit bonfires to disorientate the witches as they flew home afterwards, which leads up nicely to our next tradition…
In parts of Sweden and Germany, as well as the more familiar Easter eggs and roast lamb, people light bonfires on the evening of Easter Saturday, to chase away the dark winter spirits and usher in the warmth that spring brings. It’s often the first BBQ of the year.
On Good Friday, the skies of Bermuda fill with elaborate kites. Apparently, a Bermudan teacher used a kite bearing Jesus’ image to demonstrate the Ascension of Christ into Heaven, and the practice caught on.
Breaking eggs on heads
Cascarones, or confetti eggs, are popular in Mexico and southwestern USA. Eggs are poured out of one end of the shell, which is then cleaned, decorated and refilled with confetti or small toys. The hole is sealed with tissue paper and then the whole thing is broken over someone’s head for luck. In northeast Spain, a whole egg is baked in a special pastry then broken on people’s heads. These sound like rather painful ways to celebrate Easter – ouch.
Easter egg rolling
The Easter egg roll is the highlight of the annual Easter festivities on the White House lawn, in Washington, DC, USA. Children roll decorated hard-boiled eggs towards the finish line, using long sticks or long-handled spoons. The event is believed to date back to the 19th century. A similar event, sometimes called “pace-egging”, happens in some counties in Britain. A centuries-old tradition, participants launch their hard-boiled eggs down a grassy hill. The winner is the one with the egg that rolls the farthest or rolls between two markers.
In the Czech Republic, boys celebrate Easter Monday by whipping girls around the legs with braided whips. Apparently, it confers health and youth for the rest of the year, and the more whips a girl receives, the more popular she is. In the Philippines, penitents whip their backs with bamboo and blades in the week leading up to Easter. The ritual is believed to cleanse sins, cure illness and make wishes come true – still, this is one to leave well alone.
Throwing buckets of water
Easter Monday becomes Wet Monday in some places in Central Europe. In Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and a handful of small villages in Slovakia, participants don traditional dress and then the men throw buckets of water over the women.