From lamb-shaped cakes to blood-red eggs, here are the world’s most eggs-traordinary Easter traditions.
For most of us here in South Africa, Easter celebrations involve bunnies, chocolate eggs, and in some households, a church service followed by a lekker braai. But, but elsewhere in the world, Easter is all about kites, water buckets and whipping.
Yes, you read that right. And if that’s enough to pique your interest, here’s what really goes on in other parts of the world when it comes to unique Easter celebrations…
Over in Australia, bilbys take centre stage during Easter and have become well-known as the country’s very own version of the Easter bunny.
Unlike rabbits, these small marsupials are on the endangered list, their numbers falling rapidly. So, in an attempt to raise awareness about the species, local confectioners have taken to making chocolates moulded in the exact shape of this rabbit-sized creature when Easter comes around in the Land Down Under.
Sadly, bilbys now only exist in a handful of remote regions in Western Australia, Queensland, and the Northern Territory.
While we get a long weekend here in South Africa, In the town of Seville, in Spain, Easter is celebrated over an entire week. Referred to as Semana Senata, it consists of around 50,000 people participating in festive parades along the main streets. While this might not take place this year due to COVID-19 regulations, this Easter tradition has been going strong since the 16th century.
The standout feature of these unique Easter celebrations are the vibrant religious floats, and pasos (statues dedicated to Jesus) carried on the shoulders of the costaleros (paraders), while traditional choirs and wind quartets serenade the eager crowds.
Poland’s Easter Monday (aka Wet Monday) is one tradition you’ll certainly need a raincoat for. On this day, it is custom for the Polish (usually the men) to take to the streets brandishing buckets, water guns and water balloons in an attempt to try and soak one another. It’s called Smigus-Dyngus, and it originates from an old Slavic tradition of using water for purification before the arrival of spring.
And the fun doesn’t end there. On Easter Monday, men in some regions even go around whipping the ladies with willow branches (in a theatrical manner). Nowadays, the ladies also join in, and it makes us wonder what it would be like to see this tradition play out here in Mzansi, sjamboks and all…
Other unique Easter celebrations in Poland include egg painting (pisanki), decorating the house with spring flowers, and setting the table with a very, er, unique lamb-shaped cake (Baranek Wielkanocny).
In many parts of the world, like Poland, Easter is known for decorating eggs in different colours, but over in Greece, they are only dyed red (kokkina avga).
The reason behind this is that red is considered the colour of life and represents the blood of Christ. But even from ancient times, the egg has long reigned as a symbol of the renewal of life.
That being said, the overall message of the red eggs is also a victory over death. But what becomes of the red eggs? Well, they are used in the first meals eaten after the strict fasting of Lent, but the fun doesn’t stop there. The red eggs are also used to play a game is called tsougrisma. It involves two players with the goal is to crack your opponent’s egg through gentle taps. When one end is successfully broken, the winner ruthlessly goes in to finish off the other end.
Over in the island nation of Bermuda, unique Easter celebrations take place over Good Friday by flying the most colourful, long-tailed kites made of sticks, string and tissue paper across the island.
These kites come in all shapes and sizes. Think dragons, space shuttles, sharks and more. Legend has it that this Easter tradition was started by a local Sunday school teacher from the British army who experienced difficulty teaching Christ’s ascension to Heaven. He decided to make and fly a kite to illustrate his lesson, which coincidently bears a cross shape.
In the town of Haux in France, a giant omelette is made with 4,500 eggs during Easter. It is served up in the main square of the city and feeds up to 1,000 people.
As the story goes, when Napoleon and his army were travelling through the south of France, they stopped in this small town where the villagers gathered together to make them omelettes. Napoleon enjoyed it so much that he ordered the same thing when he returned, and the tradition has carried on ever since.
Besides tucking into a massive omelette, unique Easter celebrations also involve eating an abundance of chocolates in the shape of eggs, bunnies and bells. And as the largest wine-producing area in France, you can bet that this involves a bottle of fine Bordeaux blend to mark the occasion.
During Easter in Jerusalem (pre-COVID days), you can attend mass at a church in Bethpage on the Mount of Olives before joining a joyous procession along the Via Dolorosa pilgrimage route. This involves re-enacting the famous Passover event when Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem on his donkey.
Just like in Seville, Spain, this event is celebrated with a joyous and colourful procession of people waving leafy-green palm fronds. It is a deeply religious tradition that has long-lured in crowds of Christian locals and pilgrims from all over the world, and here’s hoping that this tradition can continue in the coming years.