As Easter approaches we can’t help but wondering what are the world’s other traditions besides just dingy bunny costumes and store bought chocolates? Surely there must be some creativity and touches of folklore left out there in the world! So we went on a mission to find the most amusing, unique and flat out awesome Easter traditions.
First off England. Yes London does engage in some of the traditional Easter customs like chocolate and bunnies, but the tradition of Maundy Thursday is the one you need to hear about. Traditionally Maundy Thursday (comes before Good Friday) was known when England’s royalty would wash the poor’s feet. This tradition changed in 1689, but instead started a new tradition where the monarch gives out money. Two purses are given out, a red and a white one. The red purse contains an allowance for clothing and provisions, while the white one contains unique Maundy coins. These coins come in either 4 pence (also known as a groat) 3 pence, 2 pence and 1 pence. Traditionally the amount of money given out corresponds with how many seniors recieve the purses and the monarch’s age. Last year the Queen was 84, so hence 84 recievers and 84 pence!
Finland offer a very different and surprising tradition with Easter, that many would probably compare with the popular holiday Halloween. Legend has it that witches would fly over towns the Thursday before Easter and then would return Easter Sunday. The town people would attempt to scare the witches away with fires, which are now replaced today with fireworks that lead up to Easter Sunday. Besides just these fireworks, towns like Helsinki have other special traditions like Virpominen. Virpominen usually takes place the Thursday or Saturday before Easter. The tradition consists of little children dressing up as witches with soot on their faces, scarves on their heads and carrying broomsticks and coffee pots. Much like the holiday Halloween, the kids go from house to house asking for candy, in exchange for willow branches with ribbon tied around it.
Although easily more identifiable with the classic signs of Easter, Prague still offers unique traditions indicative of their culture. Giant markets with wonderful stalls filled with crafts and tantalizing foods are set up, but the real jem of the holiday is easily the Easter egg. Although a traditional symbol for Easter, these eggs are much more elaborate. The eggs are pretty ubiquitous throughout Prague, although each egg is impeccable with unique designs. Besides just buying one of these eggs, you can also get your own egg personalized, with the woman in charge of the stall hand painting your name on the egg. If you’re there you should try to take a local folklore tour to learn even more about certain traditions unique only to Prague.
4.) Czech Republic, Poland & Slovakia
Other countries like the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia indulge in uncommon Easter traditions. The two most popular are called Dyngus and Pomlazka (although these can differ depending exactly what part of Central and Eastern Europe you are in). The first of the two Dyngus, consists of men dousing young women with water, although in more recent times the dousing has been toned down to a light sprinkling. The water represents a year full of health and beauty and many girls will boast the next day of how many men came to douse her with water.
The other tradition known as Pomlazka revolves around young men lightly whipping the women with willow branches that usually have ribbon attached at the end of the branch. The men cut one, or sometimes a few, branches down and gently whip the women in order to guarantee fertility and a healthy year. The tradition revolves around the ideal that the life of the tree will be transferred into the girl once she is whipped by the branches.
Norway has an unusual event that occurs during Easter which involves crime novels. During the week of Easter, crime movies, novels and even unsolved murders featured on the side of milk box cartons run rampant through Norway. A theory on how this began was in 1923 when a publicity stunt featured advertisements that looked like news items dealing with crimes and murders appeared on the front of different newspapers. Many believed the PR stunt, which somehow led to a publishing house to start churning out crime novels. These became popular during the week of Easter when movie theatres, restaurants and cafes were mainly closed because of the holiday. Chocolate eggs, bunnies and chicks are still a popular way to celebrate Easter, but this crime tradition is certainly one of the cooler Easter customs we’ve found!
To finish out this list of interesting Easter traditions we come to France and its ingenious use of disposing of the ubiqitious egg bringer (the Easter bunny himself) and following a more unusual and cooler route. The silencing of the bells or Les Cloches Volants started in the 12th century, where church bells were silenced starting Good Friday in acknowledgment of Jesus’s death. Legend goes that the bells fly to Rome to be with the Pope, and then return Easter Sunday where they bring chocolate eggs, bells and everything else. These chocolates are hidden around the house for children to find once they wake up on Sunday. Get in the Parisian Easter spirit with a chocolate cookin class in Paris and make your own pair of chocolate flying bells!