9 Fascinating Easter Traditions from Around the World
In America, Easter means church services, Easter egg hunts, and baskets full of candy. Here’s how other countries celebrate the holiday.
French children don’t get treats from the Easter bunny; they get them from the Easter bells. According to Catholic teaching, no church bells can ring between Holy Thursday and the Easter Vigil, on account of the solemnity of the days around Jesus’s death. Eventually, a legend evolved that said the church bells weren’t rung because they grew wings and flew to Rome to be blessed by the Pope. Then they returned Easter day with chocolate and presents for local kids. Everyone in the world should know these French phrases.
Even though Christians only make up 2.5 percent of India’s population, they still have elaborate Easter festivities, especially in the northeastern states. The western India state Goa celebrates with carnivals, complete with street plays, songs, and dances. People exchange chocolates, flowers, and colorful lanterns as gifts. Here are the myths and legends that sparked Easter traditions.
On Pasqua (“Easter” in Italian), residents of Florence celebrate a 350-year-old tradition called scoppio del carro, which means “explosion of the cart.” A centuries-old cart is loaded with fireworks and pulled in front of the Duomo, where spectators watch the pyrotechnics go off. It’s meant to be a sign of peace and a good year ahead. South of Florence is the town Panicale, where the big celebration happens the day after Easter (called Pasquetta, or little Easter). Locals gather for the annual Ruzzolone, a competition that involves rolling huge wheels of Ruzzola cheese around the perimeter of the village. Do you know how to use these Italian phrases?
The day before Easter, families prepare a “blessing basket.” It’s filled with colored eggs, sausages, bread, and other important food and taken to church to be blessed. In Polish culture, Lent isn’t over until a priest blesses this basket. Like their Italian neighbors, the Polish save their most notable tradition for the day after Easter: Smigus Dyngus. Young boys try to get girls (and each other) wet with water guns, buckets of water, and any other means they can think of. Legend has it that girls who get soaked will marry within the year. Make these 19 homemade egg dyes part of your Easter traditions.
Some Australian kids are visited by the Easter Bunny, but rabbits are considered pests because they destroy the land. (Come on, Australia—They’re so cuddly!) So some Australians associate Easter with a different animal. In 1991, the Anti-Rabbit Research Foundation started a campaign to replace the Easter Bunny with the Easter Bilby. Bilbies have big, soft ears like rabbits and long noses like mice, and they’re endangered, another reason for publicity around the campaign. (Did you know these animals were endangered, too?) There’s also the Sydney Royal Easter Show, the largest annual event in the country. Farming communities showcase their crops and livestock, and urban dwellers get to experience a slice of rural life. The two-week show (always spanning over Easter weekend) also includes rides and the Sydney Royal Rodeo.
In Latin America
Many Latin American countries, Brazil, and certain regions of Spain participate in The Burning of Judas. Residents make an effigy (or multiple effigies) of Judas, the apostle who betrayed Jesus, and burn it in a central location. Sometimes, people make the effigy explode with fireworks. This is how to take fireworks photos on your phone.
The town of Verges commemorates Holy Thursday with the Dansa de la Mort (Death Dance). During this night procession, participants dress up like skeletons and reenact scenes from the Passion. The last skeletons in the parade carry a box of ashes with them. On the other side of the country, residents of Almaden de la Plata have a custom of placing straw effigies of famous people around the city (similar to The Burning of Judas), then tearing them up and throwing the pieces in the air. Learn these words before traveling to a Spanish-speaking country.
In the U.K.
Many communities in England have Easter performances of Morris dancing, a traditional type of folk dance dating back to the Middle Ages. Men dress up, wearing hats and bells around their ankles, and wave ribbons while dancing through the streets. It’s believed that the dances drive the spirits of winter away and bring good luck. Another famous Easter tradition (recognized around the world) is egg jarping. Two players smash hard-boiled eggs together, and whoever has the egg that’s still intact is the winner. (These are the official jarping rules.) The World Jarping Championships are held each Easter in Durham, England. What’s the association between eggs and Easter anyway?
The island of Corfu gets pretty messy on the morning of Holy Saturday. Residents take part in the annual “Pot Throwing,” and it’s exactly what it sounds like. They throw pots, pans, and other earthenware out of windows. Since the tradition marks the beginning of spring, it’s supposed to symbolize the new crops that will be gathered in new pots. But it’s on a different Greek island, Ikaria, where people forget to die.