If you hadn’t already guessed from the number of Easter eggs lining supermarket shelves, Easter is very nearly upon us!
If you’re looking at Easter from a purely secular point of view. Jellybeans, chocolate Easter bunnies, colourful eggs, and pastel colours are all heavily associated with the celebration of the holiday in many western countries. But what other unique traditions are used to celebrate Easter around the world?
From flying kites to reading crime novels, here are some of the most fascinating ways to celebrate the spring holiday across the world this year.
Red painted eggs of Greece
Why are eggs associated with Easter, a holiday that, traditionally in religion, celebrates the rebirth of Jesus Christ?
Well, the egg itself symbolises the renewal of life and, in Greece, rather than just painting eggs in pastel colours, they also paint them red to represent the blood and the sacrifice of Christ. The red eggs are the first food to be eaten after the Lent fasting ends and are used to play a game called “tsougrisma” which means clashing. The game is to test the egg’s strength: Each player holds an egg and taps the end of their egg on the other player’s egg. The goal is to crack your opponent’s egg without cracking yours and it is said that the winner will have a lucky year. This cracking tradition symbolizes Christ’s resurrection from the dead.
Flying Kites in Bermuda
Kites are a major part of Bermudan culture. Easter festivities in Bermuda commence with the Good Friday KiteFest. On that day, people fly their brightly coloured homemade kites, which are usually hexagonal or octagonal geometric designs.
Where does this tradition come from? Legend has it that a local teacher was teaching his students how Jesus’s resurrection and ascension to Heaven. To demonstrate that, he took a kite to a hilltop, set it flying and then cut the string so it can fly upwards representing Christ’s journey to heaven…
Dressing up as Easter witches in Finland
In Finland, witches aren’t associated with Halloween, and instead, make an appearance the day before Easter. Young children, especially girls, dress up as witches and wear colourful clothes and draw freckles on their faces. The little witches then go from door to door, bringing with them willow branches decorated with colourful feathers, and reciting rhymes to wish for a lucky year. In exchange for the branch, they expect a little treat. This Finish tradition started around 200 years ago when witches and evil spirits were thought to walk around towns being mischievous before Easter.
Crime novels in Norway
Surprisingly, Norwegians celebrate Easter by curling up with a crime novel in their mountain cabin. This Easter tradition is said to have started in 1923 when two broke Norwegian authors decided to write a crime novel about a train robbery on Norway’s Bergen line. Newspaper publisher, Gyldendal, launched a major campaign where the book’s title “Bergen train looted in night” is on the front page. The campaign is so believable that people actually thought it was a real news story and a real train had been robbed. The stunt got massive attention and the book became a huge success. Ever since, reading crime novels during Easter has become a Norwegian tradition.
Chocolate Easter bilbies for Australians, not bunnies
Australians have ditched the Easter bunny for the Easter bilby. The Greater Bilby, a small, almost rabbit-like long-eared marsupial, used to occupy 80% of Australia, but after decades of decline, there is only a handful left globally and it’s on the verge of extinction. This prompted Australian conservation groups to raise awareness of the greater Bilby by promoting it as an alternative to the Easter bunny. The campaign has resulted in a yearly Easter mass production of bilby chocolates. Sadly, the bilby population continued to decline and there are now just 10,000 left.
Pysanky, the famed Ukrainian Easter eggs
Pysanky, a Ukrainian tradition of decorating Easter eggs dates back centuries. The art of making pysanky eggs involves covering the egg with many layers of wax and dye that results in beautiful Easter eggs. Their unique designs have become popular internationally.
Historically, women would design Pysanka eggs each spring and they were thought to have powers. Each colour used has a different symbolic meaning: white for purity, red for love, and yellow for joy.
Hot cross buns in the UK
Hot cross buns are yeast buns, made with raisins and cinnamon, marked with a cross on the top. How did these sweet, spicy, and fruity goodies become an Easter tradition?
Whilst nobody is sure of the exact origin of hot cross buns, it is thought that a monk at St. Alban’s Abbey in England, developed the recipe in the 14th century. He named them the Alban Buns and distributed them to the poor locals living around the abbey on Good Friday. Every part of the bun is symbolic. The cross symbolizes the crucifixion of Jesus, and the spices represent the spices that were used to embalm Jesus’s body after his death.
There are many superstitions associated with hot cross buns. It was believed that the cross on the bun protected people from evil spirits–this is why bakers hung them in their homes. Another belief was that Buns baked on Good Friday would not grow mouldy for an entire year! Why don’t you try baking them? Here is an easy recipe for you.