Easter is celebrated by Christian people in order to mark the resurrection of Jesus Christ. These celebrations coincide with the arrival of spring: Easter is held on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the Spring Equinox.
Easter isn’t only commemorated through religious activities or eggs, however; across the world, a variety of customs have sprung up to mark this special time of year. Taking some time to think about how Easter is celebrated in other countries can be a great opportunity for children to learn not only about the significance of the religious holiday, but also about other cultures. From ‘Ducking Monday’ in Poland to exploding fireworks in Florence, here are a few of our favourite Easter traditions.
Each Easter Monday, the residents of Haux in France get together to make a gigantic omelette. Every family breaks a number of eggs into a bowl and brings these to the town square. Over 4,000 eggs are then pour into a massive pan and cooked.
The resulting omelette is so gargantuan that it feeds over 1,000 local people for lunch and dinner!
If you’re in Europe on Easter Monday, you might want to visit France over Poland – if you prefer eating omelettes to getting drenched, that is! Poland (and Hungary) have one of the most unusual Easter traditions, which is known as ‘Ducking Monday’: as part of an ancient ritual which is thought to relate to spring and fertility, locals empty buckets of cold water over bystanders. This activity used to be directed at women alone, as it was believed that dousing passing females in cold water would prevent them from wilting (like flowers); however, the rules have now been relaxed, and any man that is in the area on ‘Ducking Monday’ may also find himself taking an impromptu shower!
Who doesn’t love a lamb? The perfect symbol of spring, these gambolling, frolicking, four-legged creatures are popular across the world. Historically, however, it was considered lucky to meet a lamb – due to the fact that the devil could reportedly take on the form of any animal except a young sheep.
As such, in Russia the Easter Sunday lunch is accompanied by a chunk of butter shaped like a lamb – which is thought to bring the diners good luck and prosperity.
A visitor to Europe over Easter would be wise to keep their heads covered: if you’re not getting doused with cold water in Poland, over in the Greek island of Corfu you might end up being hit by a piece of flying pottery.
Drawing on the Venetian tradition – which was enacted on New Year’s Eve – of tossing old items out the window in hopes of receiving brand-new replacements, on Easter Saturday, Corfu locals gather their old pots and throw them into the street. The crashing of ceramics and bursts of laughter fill the air all day!
Vatican City – home to the head of the Catholic Church, the Pope – is nestled within Rome, the capital of Italy. As such, it’s no surprise that Easter celebrations in Italy are filled with religious significance.
The Pope himself delivers Easter Mass at St Peter’s Basilica in Rome on Good Friday. Over at the Colosseum, a burning crucifix flies high above the city in celebration of Via Crucis (Stations of the Cross). Similar ceremonies will take place all over Italy, with regional twists. In Sicily, 2,000 friars dressed in special robes process through the city; and in Florence, an intricate wagon full of fireworks is set alight, culminating in a wonderful, vibrant display.
In contrast to the Easter celebrations in Italy, the feeling in Sweden at this special time of year is more secular – and spooky. It’s believed that Blåkulla Island – which is situated to the east of Sweden in the Baltic Sea – is visited by a number of witches during Easter. From Maundy Thursday onwards, witches are said to make a trip to the island to plot together and mark the Witches’ Sabbath, which coincides with the Christian holiday.
Swedes celebrate this ancient legend with their version of ‘trick or treating’: children go from door to door, costumed as witches with rosy cheeks and painted-on freckles, trading arts and crafts (usually drawings) in exchange for sweets.
How will you be spending the holiday? Work, play, or a bit of both? We’d love to hear about your Easter traditions. Share your news with us on Facebook or Twitter, or leave a note in the comments below!