Easter around the world
Rabbits and eggs signify rebirth and fertility and for many the symbol for Easter is the Easter bunny and Easter eggs. So whilst we have a weekend of feasting on chocolate bunnies and Hot Cross Buns I wanted to share with you how others around the world celebrate their Easter.
In the US back in 1878 the White House grounds were officially opened by the President and his wife on Easter Monday. The event of egg rolling was held on the South Lawn for local children and has been a yearly event with the exception of during WWI and WWII.
In Australia many have substituted the traditional chocolate rabbit, which is feral for an endangered chocolate bilby. The Easter Bilby has raised awareness about the environmental damage that feral rabbits cause. Bilbies are small native animals that with the help of replacing the Easter bunny with a true native wildlife, Bilby are slowly getting themselves off the endangered species list. Several chocolatiers like Pink Lady, Haigh’s Chocolates, Cadbury’s and Darrell Lea are now all producing Easter Bilbies.
Hot Cross Buns are traditionally toasted and eaten on Good Friday in Britain and Australia. They stand out from other Easter delicacies because of their flavour, a combination of spicy, sweet and fruity with a cross on the top. First baked in England, served hot as the traditional Good Friday breakfast, they are now eaten throughout the entire Easter period and made fruitless or chocolate as well as traditional.
Easter is one of the most important religious holidays and has a variety of traditions and symbols throughout the world. The cross on the top of the buns symbolises the cross that Jesus was crucified on. As a reminder of the sacrifice Jesus made on the day of crucifixion meat is traditionally not eaten and substituted for fish on Good Friday.
In addition to the spiritual side of Easter is also has a material side, the Easter bonnets, bunnies and irresistible foil wrapped chocolate eggs. Women have by tradition, bought new hats to wear to church services at Easter and to wear in local parades. This tradition was introduced in 1930’s by songwriter Irving Berlin who wrote about New York’s Easter Parade. Easter bonnets are elegant, dramatic, functional, whimsical or absolutely ridiculous but they are fun and part of our fashion history.
There are also many traditions and rituals. In Poland a symbol of Christ is the lamb and Easter baskets contain a lamb made of sugar. The day after Easter is known as Dyngus Day or Wet Monday. A day of engaging in public water fights is celebrated in Poland and the Polish-American neighbourhoods of Buffalo, New York and Indiana. Since Easter Monday in 966 AD Polish boys have tried to drench other people with buckets of water. Legend says girls who get soaked will marry within the year.
Lamb is the cutest of all European Easter meal traditions, whether it be sculptures of tiny lambs made of butter or lamb cakes, they are a common centrepiece on the Easter table in Russia, Slovenia or Poland with their cute little bow around their neck.
Easter is one of the most joyful holidays in the Czech calendar with Pomlázka which started in pagan times still being a tradition upheld today. Although having lost its symbolism and romance the origin was to chase away illness and bad spirits and bring health for the rest of the year to everyone who is whipped. Using young pussywillow twigs boys would whip girls lightly on the legs while reciting an Easter carol. As willow is the first tree to bloom in spring, the brances are used to transfer vitality and fertility to women. The girl would reward the boy with a painted egg and tie a ribbon on his pomlázka. The reward today is often shots of plum brandy, slivovice, so by afternoon groups of staggering, happy men are seen. I can see why it’s so joyful. In some areas whipping is not widespread but instead women are doused with water in another fertility related ritual. In Czech home, decorating eggs is traditionally left for girls as boys are busy making whips. While chocolate Easter bunnies are becoming more common, the traditional treat is chocolate or sugar covered cake in the shape of a lamb.
In Bermuda on Good Friday home-made kites made from coloured tissue paper, wood, metal and string are flown to symbolise the ascent of Christ into heaven on the fortieth day after Resurrection. Bermudians eat codfish cakes and hot cross buns.
Old Christmas trees are piled up and burnt on Easter Sunday and Monday in Germany, signifying the end of winter and beginning of spring. As the fires chase away the remainder of winter, it is a festive night, with adults enjoying alcohol and food as they watch.
Pot Throwing takes place on the Greek island of Corfu on the morning of Holy Saturday. The tradition of people throwing pots, pans and earthenware from their windows is said to derive from the Venetians who throw out old items on New Year’s Day. It could also symbolise welcoming spring by throwing pots in the belief that new crops will be gathered with new pots.
A popular Hungarian Easter tradition on Easter Monday is Ducking Monday. Boys sprinkle perfume or perfumed water on girls. People believe water to have a healing, fertility inducing effect and men pout buckets of water over young women’s heads, or spray with cologne and ask for a kiss.
In the French town, Haux on Easter Monday a giant omelette is served in the town’s main square. The 4,500 egg omelette feeds up to 1,000 people and is a tradition started by Napoleon. When he and his army were travelling through the South of France they liked the small town’s omelette so much the townspeople were ordered to gather their eggs and make a giant omelette for the army.
I’ll leave you with a fun fact: Most children (74%) will eat the ears of their chocolate rabbit first, 13% will eat the feet first and 10% will eat the tail first.
So there you have it. What traditions do you follow for Easter? Which part of your chocolate rabbit do you bite into first?
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Photo: Getty Images, iStockphoto, Associated Press, Walter Novak, Business Insider, Lindt