Egg hunts, chocolate bunnies, Easter bushes – sure, we know them all. But what other Easter customs are there around the world? And where do they actually come from and what do they mean?
Easter is a festival in which the most diverse cultural traditions overlap and meet. From a purely Christian point of view, Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But what does that have to do with coloured eggs and rabbits?
You guessed right: nothing at all. Because many common Easter customs date back to pagan times and were simply retained after the Christianisation of Europe. Even the name Easter probably comes from the Germanic goddess of spring, Eostrae.
And here we can already see the common denominator of all Easter customs: at its core, Easter is a spring festival and the Easter customs all revolve in one form or another around welcoming and celebrating spring. And this even brings us full circle to the motif of resurrection, for what is spring but the resurrection of nature?
This year, we asked ourselves what other Easter traditions there are in the rest of the world besides the ones we are familiar with, such as dyeing Easter eggs. The result is a small list of 10 Easter traditions.
Some of them are similar to ours, some seem quite strange to us, but all of them are customs that we find particularly beautiful or interesting. But read for yourself… 😉
The idea that a rabbit comes around at Easter and hides (colourful) eggs, which is nowadays known all over the world, probably originated in the German-speaking countries and was first mentioned in writing in 1682 in a medical doctoral thesis with the beautiful title “De ovis paschalibus – von Oster-Eyern”.
Fun Fact: In some regions, the rooster, the stork or even the fox is said to have brought the eggs at Easter. But gradually the hare became the accepted Easter animal.
But how the custom of hiding Easter eggs and the idea of the Easter bunny originally came about is lost in the darkness of history. Nevertheless, millions of children all over the world still enjoy the Easter egg hunt, especially since the eggs are now usually made of chocolate.
As in many parts of Europe, eggs in Bulgaria are coloured at Easter, traditionally with natural dyes. But it is typically Bulgarian to fight duels on Easter Sunday. Everyone brings a coloured egg to church and after the service the eggs are beaten together in front of the church. Whoever’s egg remains intact until the end is said to be particularly lucky.
Before the arrival of the Europeans, there were no rabbits or hares in Australia. When they were introduced, they completely upset the Australian ecosystem and there was a huge rabbit plague. Since then, Australia has not been too fond of rabbits and has unceremoniously made a native marsupial, the bilby, the Easter animal. Diversity rules!
In Denmark, it is customary for every child in a family to write so-called Gækkebrev , i.e. a “fool’s letter”, which is cut out decorated and inscribed with a mysterious verse. The parents receive these letters and fail (on principle, of course) to find out who wrote which one. In order for the senders to reveal themselves, the parents have to offer them a chocolate egg (or several).
The period between Good Friday, the day Jesus died, and Easter Sunday, the day of his resurrection, is considered a time of mourning. It ends on Easter Sunday with a flood of dressed-up little Easter witches parading through the streets and making a lot of noise.
The Irish celebrate Easter with colourful parades and the “burial” of herring in small caves. This is to symbolise the end of Lent, during which only fish and no meat could be eaten.
In Central America, Christian traditions often combine with indigenous rites. This is also the case in Guatemala, where many Mayan customs still survive in modified form.
A particularly beautiful one is that at Easter, huge carpets of flowers can be seen in the towns. Over a length of more than 2 km, young people arrange colourful flowers into elaborate ornaments and patterns of Mayan culture.
As soon as spring arrives, so do mosquitoes. At least that is true in Latvia. And to protect themselves from them, people swing together in specially built Easter swings, which are burnt afterwards. Only then does the magic work and you are protected against mosquito bites this year! More or less…
While it is more common at carnival time in our country to take aim at politicians with large papier-mâché figures, in Mexico revenge against politicians is celebrated at Easter. Originally, only the devil in the form of a papier-mâché figure was burnt, but now it is a whole host of devils: unpopular politicians who go up in flames. As long as it’s just cardboard…
Finally, it’s egg time again. In England, in what is called egg-shakling, all the names of the children in a family are written on raw eggs. These are then placed in a sieve or bowl and then shaken until only one whole egg remains. Whose name is written on it receives a prize.
An ever-popular Easter custom is also to make matching Easter decorations. While you’re here, have a browse through our Easter craft ideas. 😉
You can also search for Easter ideas in general or activities with friends, activities with children or with your partner.
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