The Unique Ways in which Easter is Celebrated
Easter is one of the most celebrated holidays in the Christian calendar, marking the resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, the way this holiday is celebrated varies greatly from country to country, with each nation adding its unique twist to the festivities. While some countries may have familiar traditions such as Easter egg hunts or attending church services, others have more unusual and surprising customs that may seem bizarre to outsiders. From exploding carts in Italy to water fights in Poland, here are some of the most unique Easter traditions from around the world that showcase the diversity and richness of global cultures.
One of the most unique Easter traditions in Poland is Smigus-Dyngus, also known as Wet Monday. It is a day of water fights and drenching one another with water, which symbolizes purification and cleansing. This custom dates back to the 13th century and is believed to have originated from the baptism of Prince Mieszko on Easter Monday in 966 AD. In the past, men would sprinkle women with water, but now everyone participates, using water guns, buckets, and even hoses to soak each other. People also chase each other around the streets and homes, trying to avoid getting wet. This tradition is not only fun and entertaining, but it also signifies the start of spring and a new season of growth and renewal.
Australia – Easter Bilby
In Australia, the Easter Bilby has become a popular alternative to the traditional Easter Bunny. The bilby, which is a small marsupial native to Australia, has become a symbol of conservation and the protection of native wildlife. The tradition began in the 1990s as a way to raise awareness about the plight of the bilby, whose numbers have been declining due to habitat loss and introduced predators such as foxes and cats. The Easter Bilby is now a common sight in Australian stores during the Easter season, with chocolate bilbies replacing the traditional chocolate bunnies. Some organizations also use this tradition as an opportunity to raise funds for bilby conservation efforts. The Easter Bilby is a unique and meaningful way for Australians to celebrate Easter while also promoting wildlife conservation, a win-win situation!
Norway – Påskekrim
In Norway, the Easter holiday is not just about religious observances but also about Påskekrim, or Easter Crime. This tradition began in the early 20th century when a book publisher ran an advertisement in a newspaper promoting a new crime novel, which readers mistook for a real news story. This sparked a trend for reading crime novels during the Easter holidays, which has continued to this day. Norwegians will often gather with family and friends to watch crime dramas or read crime novels during the Easter break. Many TV channels will also air crime-themed programs and movies during this time, and publishers will release new crime novels for readers to enjoy. Påskekrim has become a beloved Easter tradition in Norway, and many people look forward to spending time with loved ones and getting lost in a good mystery. As a certified crime junkie myself I can certainly get behind on this Easter tradition!
Greece – Rouketopolemos
Rouketopolemos, also known as Rocket War, is an unusual Easter tradition that takes place on the Greek island of Chios. The tradition dates back to the Ottoman era when the island was under Turkish occupation. According to legend, a rocket battle broke out between rival churches over who would ring the bell first on Easter Sunday. Today, two churches in the village of Vrontados, the Agios Markos and Panagia Erithiani, continue this tradition by firing tens of thousands of homemade rockets at each other’s bell towers on the night before Orthodox Easter Sunday. The rockets, which are made from wooden sticks filled with gunpowder and launched by hand-held metal tubes, create a spectacular and chaotic display of explosions and flames in the night sky. The event is not without danger, and participants and spectators are advised to wear protective clothing and avoid getting too close to the action. Rouketopolemos is a unique and thrilling Easter tradition that attracts visitors from all over the world to witness the fiery spectacle.
Sweden – Påskkärringar
In Sweden, Easter is celebrated with a unique tradition of Easter witches or påskkärringar. On Maundy Thursday, which is the day before Good Friday, children dress up as witches by wearing old clothes, painting their faces, and carrying broomsticks. They then go door-to-door, asking for sweets and treats, much like trick-or-treating on Halloween. The tradition has its roots in an old superstition that witches would fly to a mountain called Blåkulla on Maundy Thursday to meet with the devil. Children would dress up as witches to avoid being recognized and kidnapped by the real witches on their way to Blåkulla. Nowadays, the tradition has evolved into a fun and playful way for children to celebrate Easter and get a taste of Halloween-like festivities. Families will often bake and decorate Easter-themed treats, such as cakes shaped like witches, to enjoy together. The Easter witches tradition is a lighthearted and enjoyable way for Swedes to celebrate Easter while also embracing their cultural heritage.
Ethiopia – Fasika
In Ethiopia, Easter is known as Fasika and is celebrated in a unique and vibrant way. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church follows the Julian calendar, which means that Fasika falls on a different date than Easter in Western Christianity. The celebration lasts for several days and includes fasting, prayer, and colorful processions. On the eve of Fasika, people gather in churches for an all-night service, which includes hymns, prayers, and the lighting of candles. The next morning, people will break their fast with a traditional feast that includes injera, a sourdough flatbread, and doro wat, a spicy chicken stew. There is also a custom of exchanging gifts of bread and beer with neighbors and friends. The celebration culminates with a colorful procession called the Enkutatash, which marks the Ethiopian New Year and involves dancing, singing, and the burning of bonfires. Fasika is a vibrant and joyful celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and it is a testament to the rich cultural and religious heritage of Ethiopia.
Italy – Scoppio del carro
Scoppio del carro, or the Explosion of the Cart, is an Easter tradition that takes place in Florence, Italy. The tradition dates back to the 12th century and involves a cart filled with fireworks being pulled through the streets by white oxen to the front of the Duomo, the city’s main cathedral. The cart is then lit by a mechanical dove, which is released from the altar of the cathedral during the Easter Sunday mass. The cart’s fireworks explode in a spectacular display, which is meant to symbolize the Holy Spirit descending to earth. The tradition is believed to bring good luck to the city and its residents for the coming year. The origins of Scoppio del carro are uncertain, but some speculate that it may have its roots in pagan rituals celebrating the return of spring. Whatever its origins, the tradition has become a beloved Easter ritual in Florence, drawing crowds of locals and tourists alike to witness the spectacular display.
Now that we’ve explored some of the most unique and fascinating Easter traditions from around the world, how many of them did you already know about? We hope that learning about these traditions has broadened your understanding and appreciation of Easter and encouraged you to explore the rich cultural heritage of different parts of the world. Happy Easter!
Written by Lucy Kaufmann