Europe’s strangest Easter customs
Bunnies, lambs and colourful eggs – Easter isn’t celebrated the same way everywhere. Different cultures have different traditions. Here are all the egg-citing Easter packages.
These are some of Europe’s strangest Easter customs:
From Thursday till Saturday before Easter, church bells all over Austria remain silent because, according to legend, they’ve flown to Rome. Instead, children go through the towns and take over the task of the bells by making noise and causing a commotion with special wooden instruments called “Ratschen”.
For centuries, it has been a tradition in rural areas in Germany to celebrate Easter with large bonfires. This feast has both Christian as well as pagan origins. Among the ethnic Sorb, people roll eggs – a symbol of fertility – over the meadows and fields for a productive and bountiful harvest.
In Poland, things can get pretty wet on Easter Monday – even on sunny days. The tradition of Śmigus-Dyngus is for young boys to splash the girls with water. The custom goes back to ancient Slavic times and was originally practiced as part of a spring cleaning ritual.
In the Czech Republic, the boys make braided Easter switches, decorate them with colourful ribbons and use them to playfully whip the girls. The ritual is supposed to bring health and happiness all year. The boys are thanked with colourfully painted eggs.
In France, bells not bunnies are the symbol of Easter. From Thursday till Saturday before Easter, bells all over the country fall silent and don’t ring again until Easter Sunday – when they come back from Rome. On their way back, so the children are told, they let their chocolate eggs rain down.
In Slovakia, many faithful bring a basket of food to mass to have it blessed. Then they take the shortest way home to symbolise that they will finish their work quickly this year. Before the basket is brought inside, however, people circle the house three times as a way to keep out small animals.
In Russia, Easter is the greatest religious feast of the year. After an hour-long midnight mass, the entire community gets together to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. To bring people home, the underground runs longer on this day. The fast is broken by indulging in some kulich, a traditional Russian Easter dessert.
During the Easter meal in Romania, people tap red eggs together following an exactly defined ritual: An older person, preferably the head of the household, taps the tip of his egg against the tip of another family member’s egg and says “Christ is risen”. The answer follows: “Truly, He is risen.”