As most people know, Easter is primarily a Christian celebration of the the Resurrection of Jesus Christ on the third day after his Crucifixion. However, Easter is celebrated in different ways around the world. In the United States, families generally attend a church service together, share a meal, and host an Easter Egg hunt in their backyard for the small children. The hard plastic eggs are hidden around the yard in several places, generally filled with candy or, for some lucky children, coins and cash. The President hosts the annual Easter Egg Roll on the White House lawn on Easter Monday. The tradition, believed to date back to the early 19th century, involves children rolling a colored hard-boiled egg with a large serving spoon.
The United States is not the only country who associates eggs with Easter. On Easter Monday in Haux, France the townspeople make a giant omelet with more than 4,500 eggs that can feed up to 1,000 people. This tradition all started when Napoleon and his army were traveling through Haux and they stopped to eat omelettes. Allegedly, Napoleon liked his omelete so much that he ordered the townspeople to gather all their eggs and to make one giant omelet for his army the next morning. Speaking of eggs, in Bulgaria, they do not hide their eggs or even eat them; they have egg fights. Whoever comes out of the game with an unbroken egg is the winner and is said to be the most successful family member in the coming year. Also in Bulgaria, the oldest woman of the family rubs the faces of all the children with the first red egg she has colored. This is supposed to symbolize her wish for them to have rosy cheeks, strength, and good health.
Some traditions are more similar to other American holidays. In Sweden, on Easter they celebrate something similar to Halloween where children dress up as Easter witches by putting on long skirts, painting their cheeks red, and topping off the look with wildly colorful scarves. The children go door to door trading paintings and drawings to win candy for their baskets. More baskets can be seen in Poland where the day before Easter, Polish families will make a “blessing basket”, filled with colorful eggs, sausages, bacon, bread and other baked goods and take to the church to be blessed. After the priest blesses their family’s basket, Lent is officially over for their family and they can feast on their basket. Another tradition in Poland is called Śmigus-dyngus. On Easter Monday, boys try to drench girls with buckets of water, squirt guns, water balloons, or anything they can get their hands on. Legend says girls who get soaked will marry within the year.
Traditions in each country vary, so when traveling over the Easter holiday, be sure to research the different ways to celebrate. How awkward and embarrassing would it be if on vacation, families would show up in a foreign country and not know that in Florence, the locals celebrate their tradition known as Scoppio del Carro, or “explosion of the cart.” This event consists of an ornate cart filled with fireworks being pushed through the streets by townspeople dressed in 15th century costumes making their way to Duomo where the Archbishop of Florence lights a fuse during Easter mass, sparking a brilliant ending to their mass. If a family arrives in Czech Republic, where on Easter Monday the tradition is for men to spank women with handmade whips of willow and decorative ribbons, an uneducated traveler may be confused. Allegedly, the willow tree is the first to bloom beautiful flowers in the spring, therefore the branches are supposed to transfer the tree’s vitality and fertility to the women. Of course, the spanking is all in good fun and never meant to cause any pain.
Every country celebrates Easter a little differently. Why not try out a new tradition during the holidays this year?