Easter Customs and Traditions
Easter eggs are a popular sign of the holiday among its religious and secular observers alike.
Brazilian customers buying Easter eggs in a supermarket.
A Bermuda kite, flown inBermuda to symbolize the ascent of Christ.
As with many other Christian dates, the celebration of Easter extends beyond the church. Since its origins, it has been a time of celebration and feasting and many Traditional Easter games and customs developed, such as egg rolling, egg tapping, Pace egging and egg decorating. Today Easter is commercially important, seeing wide sales of greeting cards and confectionery such as chocolate Easter eggs, marshmallow bunnies, Peeps, and jelly beans. Even many non-Christians celebrate these aspects of the holiday while eschewing the religious aspects.
Customs around the world
Many central and eastern European ethnic groups, including the Albanians, Belarusians, Bulgarians, Croats, Czechs, Hungarians, Lithuanians, Macedonians, Poles, Romanians, Russians, Serbs, Slovaks, Slovenes, and Ukrainians decorate eggs for Easter.
In the CzechRepublicand Slovakia, a tradition of spanking or whipping is carried out on Easter Monday. In the morning, men spank women with a special handmade whip called a pomlázka (in Czech) or korbáč (in Slovak), or, in eastern Moravia andSlovakia, throw cold water on them. The pomlázka/korbáč consists of eight, twelve or even twenty-four withies (willow rods), is usually from half a meter to two meters long and decorated with coloured ribbons at the end. The spanking is not painful or intended to cause suffering. A legend says that women should be spanked in order to keep their health and beauty during whole next year.
An additional purpose can be for men to exhibit their attraction to women; unvisited women can even feel offended. Traditionally, the spanked woman gives a coloured egg and sometimes a small amount of money to the man as a sign of her thanks. In some regions, the women can get revenge in the afternoon or the following day when they can pour a bucket of cold water on any man. The habit slightly varies across Slovakia and the Czech Republic. A similar tradition existed in Poland (where it is called Dyngus Day), but it is now little more than an all-day water fight.
In Croatia and Slovenia, a basket of food is prepared and covered with a handmade cloth, and brought to the church to be blessed. A typical Easter basket includes bread, colored eggs, ham, horseradish, and a type of nut cake called “potica”.
The butter lamb (Baranek wielkanocny) is a traditional addition to the Easter Meal for many Polish Catholics. Butter is shaped into a lamb either by hand or in a lamb-shaped mould.
In Hungary, Transylvania, Southern Slovakia, Kárpátalja, Northern Serbia – Vojvodina and other territories with Hungarian-speaking communities, the day following Easter is called Locsoló Hétfő, “Watering Monday“. Water, perfume or perfumed water is often sprinkled in exchange for an Easter egg.
In Bulgariathe Easter eggs are decorated on Thursday before Easter or at Saturday before Easter. Widespread tradition is to fight with eggs by pair and one’s egg become last surviving is called borak (Bulgarian: борак, fighter). The tradition is on the Easter table except the decorated eggs to present roasted lamb, lettuce with cucumbers salad (called Easter salad at some places) and kozunak .
Throughout the English-speaking world, many Easter traditions are similar with only minor differences. For example, Saturday is traditionally spent decorating Easter eggs and hunting for them with children on Sunday morning, by which time they have been mysteriously hidden all over the house and garden. Other traditions involve parents telling their children that eggs and other treats such as chocolate eggs or rabbits, and marshmallow chicks (Peeps), have been delivered by the Easter Bunny in an Easter basket, which children find waiting for them when they wake up. Many families observe the religious aspects of Easter by attending Sunday Mass or services in the morning and then participating in a feast or party in the afternoon. Some families have a traditional Sunday roast, often of either roast lamb or ham. Easter breads such as Simnel cake, a fruit cake with eleven marzipan balls representing the eleven faithful apostles, or nut breads such as potica are traditionally served. Hot cross buns, spiced buns with a cross on top, are traditionally associated with Good Friday, but today are often eaten well before and after.
In Scotland, the north of England, and Northern Ireland, the traditions of rolling decorated eggs down steep hills and pace egging are still adhered to.
InLouisiana,USA, egg tapping is known as egg knocking.Marksville,Louisianaclaims to host the oldest egg-knocking competition in theUS, dating back to the 1950s. Competitors pair up on the steps of the courthouse on Easter Sunday and knock the tips of two eggs together. If the shell of your egg cracks you have to forfeit it, a process that continues until just one egg remains.
In the British Overseas Territory of Bermuda, the most notable feature of the Easter celebration is the flying of kites to symbolize Christ’s ascent. Traditional Bermuda kites are constructed by Bermudians of all ages as Easter approaches, and are normally only flown at Easter. In addition to hot cross buns and Easter eggs, fish cakes are traditionally eaten inBermuda at this time.
An Eastern tradition in Italy, the Colomba Pasquale
In Florence, Italy, the unique custom of the Scoppio del carro is observed in which a holy fire lit from stone shards from the Holy Sepulchre are used to light a fire during the singing of the Gloria of the Easter Sunday mass, which is used to ignite a rocket in the form of a dove, representing peace and the holy spirit, which following a wine in turn lights a cart containing pyrotechnics in the small square before the Cathedral.
Church bells are silent as a sign of mourning for one or more days before Easter in The Netherlands,BelgiumandFrance. This has led to an Easter tradition that says the bells fly out of their steeples to go to Rome (explaining their silence), and return on Easter morning bringing both colored eggs and hollow chocolate shaped like eggs or rabbits.
In both The Netherlands and Flemish-speaking Belgiummany of more modern traditions exist alongside the Easter Bell story. The bells (“de Paasklokken”) leave for Rome on Holy Saturday, called “Stille Zaterdag” (literally “Silent Saturday”) in Dutch.
In French-speaking Belgium and France the same story of Easter Bells (« les cloches de Pâques ») bringing eggs from Rome is told, but church bells are silent beginning Maundy Thursday, the first day of the Paschal Triduum.
In the northern and eastern parts of the Netherlands(Twente and Achterhoek), Easter Fires (in Dutch: “Paasvuur”) are lit on Easter Day at sunset. Easter Fires also take place on the same day in large portions ofNorthern Germany (“Osterfeuer”).
In Norway, in addition to staying at mountain cabins and cross-country skiing in the mountains and painting eggs, a contemporary tradition is to read or watch murder mysteries at Easter. All the major television channels run crime and detective stories (such as Agatha Christie’s Poirot), magazines print stories where the readers can try to figure out “Whodunnit“, and new detective novels are scheduled for publishing before Easter. Even the milk cartons are altered for a couple of weeks. Each Easter a new short mystery story is printed on their sides. Stores and businesses close for five straight days at Easter, with the exception of grocery stores, which re-open for a single day on the Saturday before Easter Sunday.
In Finland, Swedenand Denmark, traditions include egg painting and small children dressed as witches collecting candy door-to-door, in exchange for decorated pussy willows. This is a result of the mixing of an old Orthodox tradition (blessing houses with willow branches) and the Scandinavian Easter witch tradition. Brightly coloured feathers and little decorations are also attached to birch branches in a vase. For lunch/dinner on Holy Saturday, families traditionally feast on a smörgåsbord of herring, salmon, potatoes, eggs and other kinds of food. In Finland, the Lutheran majority enjoys mämmi as another traditional Easter treat, while the Orthodox minority’s traditions include eating pasha (also spelled paskha) instead.