Do you think Easter is all about eggs and chocolate? Well, this quick overview on weird – and mostly funny – 10 unusual Easter traditions all over the world may change your mind.
Before Christian era, the Easter days were connected to pagan rites celebrating the beginning of spring, the rebirth of nature after th dark and cold winter: in some cases, you can still recognize the track of these old times…
1. Finland: The little witches
On Palm Sunday in the East, and Holy Saturday in the West, children dress up as little witches, wearing colourful clothes and painting freckles on their faces. While they look for chocolate eggs door by door, they bring willow twigs decorated with colourful feathers and crepe paper, as blessings to drive away evil spirits. The witches recite a traditional rhyme at the door: “I wave a twig for a fresh and healthy year ahead; a twig for you, a treat for me!”
2. Czech Republic and Slovakia: beware of the whip!
Embarassing and not very feminist habit in Eastern Europe. There’s an Easter Monday tradition in which men playfully whip women with handmade whips, made of willow and decorated with ribbons. According to legend, the willow is the first tree to bloom in the spring: the branches, therefore, are supposed to donate his fertility to the women.
3. Italy: the “Explosion of the cart” in Florence
Italy here we go, with a tradition tracing back to the First Crusade: the “explosion of the cart” in the amazing city Florence.
It is said that a Florentine from a prominent family was the first man to scale the walls of Jerusalem in XI century, and was gifted with 3 flints from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, therefore used to burn a “holy fire”.
Today, on the morning of Easter Sunday an antique cart is carried during a big procession to Duomo Square, loaded with fireworks: at the singing of “ Gloria in excelsis Deo” during Easter Mass, the cardinal of Florence lights a fuse in a mechanical dove (“Colombina”), which then flies to light the cart outside and starts the fireworks. A successful show is supposed to guarantee a good harvest, stable civic life, and good business.
2020, due tro the spread of covid-19, has been the first year without this celebration after the IIWW. Here you can watch the video from last year’s Easter.
4. Colombia: iguana soup for Easter dinner
Between the 10 unusual Easter traditions all over the world, you cannot miss this very weird menu from South America.
Iguanas, slider turtles and giant rodents are some of the strange creatures being smuggled through Colombia to be made into traditional Easter meals. People bring them secretly in the cities, sometimes hidden in suitcases (they are endangered species), so they can eat them with relatives, or sell them at open-air markets.
These exotic creatures are often served up in old recipes of indigenous people, coming from immigrants who came from eastern Asia into North and South America hundreds of years ago.
Among the unusual seasonal treats: turtle’s eggs omelettes; iguana soup; cayman or turtle stew, which is served up with coconut rice, fried yuca.
5. Poland: water bucket for all
Pouring water on one another is a Polish Easter tradition called Śmigus-dyngus. On Easter Monday, boys try to wet other people with buckets of water. Legend says girls who get soaked will marry within the year. This tradition is said to trace back to the baptism of Polish Prince Mieszko on Easter Monday, in 966 AD.
Want to know more about Poland? Read about my trip there.
6. Greece: Corfu pots smashing
Thousands of people gather in the centre of Corfu on Holy Saturday Easter, to witness the annual ritual of pot smashing: every year, at noon, local people, who have decorated their windows with red flowers and badges, throw huge clay pots filled with red ribbons from their windows. The symbolism is to create an “earthquake”, like the one that is said to have occurred after Christ’s death.
7. Hungary: the Ducking Monday
“Sprinkling,” a popular Hungarian Easter tradition, is observed on Easter Monday, which is also known as “Ducking Monday.” Boys playfully sprinkle perfume or perfumed water on girls. Young men used to pour buckets of water over young women’s heads, but now they spray perfume, cologne or just plain water, and ask for a kiss. People used to believe that water had a cleaning, healing and fertility-inducing effect. One of the 10 unusual Easter traditions, very similar to the Polish one.
8. Norway: Who has killed Easter?
In Norway you now find a contemporary tradition, in addition to the well-known ancient ones: to read or watch murder mysteries at Easter. All the major TV channels run crime and detective stories, magazines print stories where the readers can try to figure out the murderer, and each year new detective novels are scheduled for publishing before Easter (a real business!)
TINE, a Norwegian diary company, since 1997 has been producing for Easter special milk cartons with a cartoon mystery crime, that customer have to solve (see in the photo above).
9. Australia: the Easter bilby
In Australia the Easter bunny is not really loved: this little animal, so cute and apparently innocent, is used to destroy the vegetable crops, making life of the farmers harder. That’s why Australian eggs are provided not by our well-know rabbit but by the Easter Bilby: an endangered species of Australia, it’s a long-eared cute marsupial.
10. France: the giant omelette
Here we are at the end of our overview on the 10 unusual Easter traditions all over the world… with an amazing delicatessen.
A giant Easter omelette is prepared each year in Bessières, southwestern France, as part of a traditional Easter celebration. According to legend, Napoleon stopped one evening in Bessières to rest and have dinner: he liked so much his omelette that he asked to the chef to cook a giant one for his troops… now, almost 15.000 are cracked to delight the visitors who come every year.