It’s Easter! That means more chocolate than you can eat, Easter egg hunts, and more. Like Christmas, Easter is a Christian holiday that has become hugely ingrained in Western culture. Celebrations vary greatly from country to country, with some strictly religious and others more a celebration for the community. Here are 5 of the most enduring and interesting Easter traditions from around the world.
1. Easter Egg Hunt
Out of all the ways people celebrate Easter, holding an Easter egg hunt is probably the most well known and most anticipated by children worldwide. From small families to the White House, the Easter egg hunt is a tradition that has worked its way into the culture of the holiday.
In pre-Christian times, the egg was a symbol of the earth’s rebirth and coming of spring. In Christian tradition, the egg was adapted to serve as an analogy for the resurrection of Christ, with the egg meant to serve as the tomb from which he arose. Evidence suggests that the actual hunt came from Protestant reformer Martin Luther. Luther held hunts where the men would hide the eggs for women and children to find.
The Easter egg hunt has become so ubiquitous with the nature of the holiday that even companies such as Cadbury get in on the act with their annual Easter Egg Trail. Regardless of the scale, the hunt has become one of the most popular aspects of Easter for Christians and non-Christians alike.
2. Decorating Eggs
Continuing the egg theme, the hunt wouldn’t be quite the same if everyone were looking for plain old eggs. Egg decorating has also been a traditional custom of the Easter holiday. Generally the eggs are ‘blown’ meaning that holes are poked in either side and the insides are blown out. Though any type of egg can be used for this, stronger ones, like emu or ostrich eggs, are particularly prized.
Though egg decorating is popular worldwide, Eastern and Central Europe have a particular fondness for the activity. Slavic culture especially employs a wide variety of carving, dyeing, and waxing techniques to achieve intricate designs. The Romanovs even had golden (or precious stone) eggs decorated for them using similar techniques.
3. Easter Fire
Is there any better way to celebrate a holiday than with a big fire? Easter Fires are lit either before, after, or during Easter Sunday and have become popular in both secular and religious celebrations. The nature of these fires varies however.
First there is the Easter Vigil. This is meant to be a solemn, deeply spiritual practice where symbolic candles are lit before or during mass. These ceremonies are generally performed on Holy Saturday.
The other way to light an Easter Fire actually comes from pre-Christian Saxon tradition. As you might imagine, this is less of a solemn ceremony and more of a community celebration. It’s not known exactly why the Saxons lit fires, though the likely explanation is to celebrate the coming of spring. Nowadays, these fires are meant to bring people together and consume gin, lager, and snacks. These fires are particularly common in Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and the Netherlands.
4. Bell Tower
This more sombre tradition is usually found in the Netherlands, Belgium, and France. At least one day before Easter, church bells are completely silent as a sign of mourning. It is said the church bells fly off to Rome during this time. When the bells return on Easter, they bring with them coloured eggs and chocolates to commemorate the resurrection.
In France the return of the bells is greeted by much joy. People take to the streets, hugging and kissing anyone they know. The cry of “Joyeuses Pâques” is commonly heard throughout the morning – meaning Happy Easter.
5. Murder Mystery
One of the more unique and intriguing Easter traditions comes from Norway. Along with other, more traditional celebrations, it’s common everyone to settle down and either read or watch a murder mystery. Examples include Agatha Christie’s stories – on TV or in a book. Magazines and other publications will also print whodunit games that readers will attempt to decipher and figure out who the culprit is.
The stories will often run throughout the week, with the mysteries being the talk of the town leading up to Easter. By Monday, the festivities are finished and the murder has been solved. Though this tradition may be slightly odd, it’s one of the most inclusive and is enjoyed by religious and non-religious folk alike.
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