Families around the world have been celebrating Easter with a variety of traditions and rituals; but have you ever stopped to think about why we hunt for eggs or buy chocolate rabbits? Or if they do the same thing in Europe or the Czech Republic? There are unique customs all over the world, and each country has its own way of celebrating the holiday. Even better, there are some pretty interesting stories that are behind them! We’ve explored a few weird Easter celebrations from across the world – and provided their explanations – to get you in the mood for this year’s upcoming holiday on April 5.
1. Let Them…Throw Pots?
Easter is a pretty significant holiday in Greece and Easter celebrations take place throughout the country – it’s a more important date than Christmas in the Orthodox calendar, so they celebrate with numerous festivals and Saints Days. One of their strangest traditions, however, takes place in Corfu and involves throwing cookware and pots from household windows on Easter Sunday.
The exact reason for such an odd custom is still a source of contention, but there are a few different theories that attempt to explain it. Some say it represents the rejection of Judas; others say it is simply the exuberance of having a “smashing” time after the abstinence of Lent. Some argue that it symbolizes banishing evil spirits and ill will, while others think that it marks the change of the season: old pots from last year’s harvest are exchanged for new, fresh ones. Whatever the reason, it’s safe to say that Corfu is a slightly dangerous place to be during the Easter holiday…
2. Lords of the Dance
In the small town of Bacup in northern England, an event called the “Nutter’s Dance” occurs without fail every Easter. Contrary to what one might think, it has nothing to do with people escaping a mental institution but is actually the name of an unusual Easter tradition that has been performed in the town since the 18th century.
Led by the Whiffler (or Whipper-In) who cracks his whip to drive away evil spirits, a band of men with blackened faces and skirted red, white and black costumes and neck garlands dance traditional folk dances. The origin of the dance is believed to be the traditions of Moorish sailors who stumbled upon the area – hence the face coloring and costume style. It has no clear connections to the actual Easter holiday, however, so the reason for its occurrence on that weekend remains a mystery.
3. An Easter Beauty Ritual
Ever wondered how to maintain your health and beauty – naturally? If you live in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, and some parts of Hungary, it’s apparently a pretty easy process that happens just once a year. On the Monday after Easter, the women line up and wait their turn for the men to throw water at them and then lightly hit them with a handmade willow whip decorated with ribbons. The tradition is called Pomlazka and is meant as a way to get rid of the ugly and bad things about winter. Many countries with an Orthodox population celebrate this in some form or another but in most cases it is just the water throwing. It is known in variable connotations of Dyngus Day.
4. Easter Bilsby
We’re all pretty familiar with the legend of the famous Easter Bunny that comes bearing chocolate and hides the eggs, but in Australia this little critter is actually called the Easter Bilby. The reason for this name change is actually to create awareness for the real-life bilby, which is an extremely endangered species in Australia.
The Australians are also known for their dislike towards rabbits, as they destroy a number of good crops every year. On Easter weekend, families make chocolate bilbies and give them to children after the traditional hiding and egg hunting. The Bilby animal is a small marsupial with large ears and a pouch and are usually a blue-gray in color; similar to their native Kangaroo cousins.
5. Crime & Punishment
In Norway, Easter is actually a five-day bank holiday during which all shops and businesses officially close; grocery stores are only open on the Saturday before Easter Sunday. To while away the hours during the shut-down, Norwegians celebrate by reading crime novels known as Påskekrimmen, and TV stations broadcast nonstop crime thrillers. Magazines print murder mystery stories for readers so groups of people can get together to try and solve the riddle. Even the milk cartons are part of the fun – for a couple of weeks a mystery story is printed on each side.
[images/info courtesy of ibtimes.com, rd.com, redbubble.com, projectbritain.com, & guiriguidetoprague.com]
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