Updated: Apr 11, 2022
✦ Easter means many different things to many different people and is celebrated in a variety of ways around the world.
Whether it a pivotal moment for those of a religious bent or a welcome day on the calendar for those who like to indulge in consuming chocolate Easter eggs, it is one of the most popular and widely-celebrated holidays on the calendar.
Easter is, of course, a Christian festival and cultural holiday commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead that the New Testament states occurred on the third day of his burial following his crucifixion in 30 A.D. The Easter holiday period is not a fixed date, like Christmas, although in the Western world it always falls on a Sunday between March 22 and April 25 with the week immediately prior referred to by Christians as a Holy Week. This year Easter Sunday falls on April 17.
Arguably the most well known symbolic manifestation of Easter is the egg. People traditionally gave and received eggs during the spring period to symbolise new life and rebirth, often painting them with bright colours to celebrate the sunlight of spring. In the Christian faith the egg represents the empty tomb of Christ, a custom and practice that dates back to the early Christians of Mesopotamia that was adopted by the Orthodox Churches. From there it spread into Western Europe through the Catholic and Protestant Churches.
Over the years, various traditions and superstitions have emerged around the Easter egg. One belief stated that any eggs laid on Good Friday would turn into diamonds if they were kept for 100 years. Others believed that eggs cooked on Good Friday and eaten on Easter Sunday would promote fertility and prevent sudden death - if your egg had two yolks, you’d soon become rich!
The chocolate incarnation of the egg that so many revere today was first introduced in the 19th Century in France and Germany and in 1875 Cadbury Easter Eggs first appeared. Today the chocolate eggs come in all shapes, tastes and sizes, nearly always wrapped in colourful tin foil. Maybe it had something to do with COVID-19-enforced lockdowns, but last year Easter egg sales increased by £48million in the UK alone, soaring almost 50% on the previous year to £153m. Today, 76% of people in the UK associate Easter with chocolate eggs over any form of religious connotation. It’s fair to say that the whole occasion has become extremely commercialised over the years, much in the same as Christmas and Halloween, although the religious importance still remains for many.
In Australia, of course, it isn’t just chocolate eggs that dominate at Easter with the ubiquitous Easter Bilby taking a prominent, cultural stand. The plight of the endangered marsupial was first documented and brought to the public’s attention in 1968 when 9-year-old Rose-Marie Dusting wrote “Billy The Aussie Easter Bilby,” which she published as a book 11 years later. Since then chocolate incarnations have been plentiful, with funds raised going towards awareness and preservation campaigns.
High as a kite
Whereas Easter celebrations in the likes of Australia, the UK and USA are familiar, that isn’t necessarily the case elsewhere around the world. Here we take a quick look at some of the stranger, more comical, sometimes dangerous and occasionally downright squeamish ways that people celebrate.
Very much remaining on the religious track, Christians in Israel flock to Jerusalem, the place where it is believed Jesus was crucified, where they walk the same path he did prior to his demise, often carrying crosses on their shoulders to emulate his predicament. On Easter Sunday, many pilgrims attend a church service at Garden Tomb, the area it is believed Jesus was buried.
Watch the video - What is The Holy Fire
In Bermuda the message of Easter is taken to the skies, literally, as island-wide kite flying festivals are the order of the day on Good Friday. This tradition started after a teacher was helping his students to learn about Jesus’ ascent into heaven one day – he decorated a kite with the image of Jesus and let it loose to dance in the sky! Nowadays, kites decorated with all sorts of imagery are popular and flown in the same manner on the same day.
Rollin’ rollin’ rollin’!
Symbolism plays a big part in Scotland where families will take decorated hard-boiled eggs to the local park and enjoy the pastime of egg-rolling down hills! Whereas this is one of the more fun traditions, it also carries significant symbolism with the egg rolling representing the rolling away of stones on Jesus’ tomb which led to his resurrection.
Colourful carpets made from flowers, coloured sawdust, fruits, vegetables, and sand adorn the streets in Guatemala during the Holy Week immediately prior to the Good Friday procession, some stretching as long as half a mile!
Costumes and role play are very much popular in Finland and Sweden as youngsters dress up as Easter witches with painted freckles on their cheeks, going from door-to-door with twigs decorated in colourful paper and reciting a good luck blessing or giving cards or letters for which they often receive a chocolate egg in return.
In Verges, Spain, revellers dress as skeletons, carry boxes of ashes and perform a “death dance” for three hours after the midnight chime the day before Good Friday. This is believed to reenact Christ’s crucifixion known as the Passion which is the latin word for suffering.
Water is often considered to symbolise cleaning or healing and it plays a big part in Poland on Easter Monday, or “Wet Monday” as it is fondly referred to, as people try to drench one another with buckets of water or by using water pistols. Tradition states that any woman getting soaked on this day will find good fortune and be married within a year!
It used to be a similar scenario in Hungary although nowadays men politely and gently sprinkle perfumed water over ladies that they desire, once they have been granted permission that is. The relationship theme is continued in the Czech Republic where men will decorate willow branches with ribbons and playfully “whip” girls to wish them good fortune and health, a generations-old past-time, even if not all of the recipient girls are especially fond!
In Germany, decorated eggs are hung in trees throughout the land, much in the same manner that a Christmas tree is adorned with ornaments and accessories.
Similarly trees outside of churches in Papua New Guinea are decorated – only, strangely, with tobacco leaves and cigarettes instead of chocolate which tends to melt in the tropical heat!
One of the more unorthodox ways to celebrate the Easter holiday takes place in Norway where indulging in a good old crime novel or watching crime-themed TV shows is hugely popular. The tradition started in 1923 when a book publisher was promoting their latest crime novel in local newspapers. The ads resembled actual news so much that people could barely tell the difference and the unusual practice of consuming crime-related content, bizarrely, started and stuck to this day!
Lent, when Christians abstain from certain things for a 40-day period leading up to Easter, is a commonly known practice. In Ethiopia, however, Christians extend this timeframe to 55 days in what is known as Faskia when people abstain from eating meat and animal related products. Come Easter Sunday though it is party time as wild celebrations break out in homes, villages and in churches.
In France you will hear church bells ring throughout the entire year – apart from three days leading up to Easter Sunday when the practice is curtailed because, according to tradition, the bells have ventured to Rome in order to be blessed! Come Easter Sunday, the chiming recommences and festivities such as Easter egg hunts and elaborate family meals are enjoyed.
Things get a little more dangerous in Florence, Italy where the 350-year-old tradition of “Scoppio del Carro” takes place on Easter Sunday. Literally translating as “explosion of the cart”, people dressed in 15th century attire lead a decorated cart through the city streets, coming to rest outside the famed Duomo building. Then the Archbishop of Florence lights a fuse which leads to the cart exploding in a whirl of fireworks which is supposed to lead to good fortune and ensure a healthy harvest in the months ahead.
Last but by no means least we head to the Philippines, one of the most devout Catholic nations on the planet who take Easter celebrations very seriously.
Holy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and Filipinos throughout the country will visit their local church to have their own feet washed while coconut leaves, acting as a substitution to the original palm leaves to commemorate Jesus' entry to Jerusalem are bought and blessed.
Traditionally there are two processions that take place throughout the country on Easter Sunday with men in one procession following an image of Jesus risen from the dead while their female counterparts lead another procession following Jesus’ mother, Mary, who dons a black veil.
Things get taken to the extreme in the city of San Pedro Cutud in the north of the country where a few devout believers are actually nailed to wooden crosses to commemorate and honour the crucifixion of Jesus. The Catholic Church may frown upon such a practice but it is a popular tradition that attracts thousands of tourists each year.
Enjoy Dami Im's 10,000 Reasons which she sang at one Easter
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