Kids in the US grow up expecting a delivery of eggs and candy from the Easter bunny each year, though it may seem strange to an outsider. Brought to the New World by German immigrants in the beginning of the 18th century, the practice is rooted in the belief that rabbits and eggs symbolize fertility and rebirth. While this may be the norm in US, other cultures have their their own, unique customs. Here are some of the most interesting Easter traditions from around the world and the history behind them.
Egg rolling is an important part of the Easter celebration in US that usually takes place on Easter Monday. The Egg Roll is an annual race, where children push hard boiled eggs through the grass with a spoon. The custom originated in Germany and was brought to America along with other traditions such as the Easter bunny. Another way of celebrating Easter in US is participating in Egg hunt. An Easter egg hunt is a fun festive game, during which decorated eggs (usually made of chocolate or filled with candy) are hidden outdoors or indoors for children to run around and find.
According to Gregorian calendar Orthodox Easter in Russia is observed 7 days after Catholic Easter. Preceding the holiday is a long 40 days Lenten fast during which no meat, dairy products, fish, eggs, or alcohol are allowed. It ends on Easter Sunday when all the food prohibited during the fast is served along with famous Paskha (type of Russian cheesecake made from curd cheese in shape of a truncated pyramid) and Kulich (Russian Easter bread made with butter, eggs, raisins, and nuts).
Pouring water on one another is a Polish Easter tradition that has its origins in the baptism of Polish Prince on Easter Monday in 966 AD. To this day on Easter Monday, boys try to drench with water everyone around and especially the opposite sex. According to the legend girls who get soaked will marry that year.
Jews do not celebrate Easter. They do, however, have Passover this time of year. The eight-day festival also known as Pesach commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. The most important part of the Passover celebration is the ceremony of Seder, an elaborate festive meal that takes place on the first two nights of the holiday of Passover. ‘Seder’ translates as ‘order’ and thus, all its rituals are observed in a particular order on this day.
A popular Easter tradition in Hungary also revolves around water and is known as “Sprinkling”. On Easter Monday men of all ages playfully spray perfume, cologne or just plain water, on girls and women and ask for a kiss. In the old days people used to believe that water had a purifying, healing and fertility-inducing effect.
Czech Republic & Slovakia
Men from Czech Republic and Slovakia went even further and on Easter Monday they follow the tradition of spanking women with long handmade willow whips decorated with colorful ribbons. Of course such playful spanking is all in good fun and not meant to cause pain. According to the legend, the willow is the first tree to bloom in spring, so the branches are believed to bring women the tree’s vitality and fertility.
Norwegians have an interesting Easter tradition of reading crime novels known as “Easter Thrillers”. At this time of year many people read mystery books or watch the televised crime detective series on national television. The tradition has started in 1923 when a book publisher promoted its new crime novel on the front pages of newspapers. The ads looked like real news and people didn’t realize it was a publicity stunt.