6 Easter Traditions Around the World
With the month of April rapidly approaching, Easter will soon be upon us. Stateside, stores are already filled with marshmallow bunnies and Easter baskets, and egg dyeing kits have made their appearance. For those that celebrate Easter in the U.S., these items and symbolism have their place in American tradition. Read on to find out more about different Easter traditions around the world.
Kokkina Avga, Greece
In Greece, Easter is the biggest and most celebrated holiday of them all. Though there are dedicated events and activities for each day of Holy Week, one of the most apparent traditions to travelers and tourists alike is the preponderance of red eggs. Hard-boiled eggs are dyed red to represent the color of Christ’s blood and then used for decorative purposes, baked into sweet-bread loaves, or cracked against one another (tsougrisma) to determine luck. The owner of the last un-cracked egg is deemed the luckiest. Since eggs have long been thought to symbolize the renewal of life, the symbolism of red eggs represents victory over death.
Semana Santa, Spain
Holy Week in Spain is marked largely by processions of penance. Though traditions surrounding the processions vary greatly by region, the proceedings last for 10 days and finish on Domingo de la Resurrección, or Easter Sunday. Arguably, the most popular processions in Spain occur in Seville, the capital of Andalusia and the cultural and financial center of southern Spain. The processions are organized by religious brotherhoods and feature the procession of pasos – wooden sculptures that depict individual scenes of the final period during Jesus’ life. Incredibly, the pasos seem to move by themselves, as a team of men inside the structure and hidden from view support the beam on their shoulders and necks. Due to its weight, each paso can require anywhere from 23 to 55 men to ensure its movement.
While many modern North American Easter traditions were actually introduced to the country by way of German settlers — or, the Easter bunny and the use of decorative eggs — the Germans still retain some traditions of their own. One such tradition is the Osterbaum, which translates to “Easter tree.” These Easter trees are typically made one of two ways; either using small living trees or bushes, or cutting branches from pussy willows or other flowering bushes. The trees are then decorated with colorful painted wood eggs and hollowed out real eggs.
Of all of the Easter traditions, it’s safe to say the Norwegians have the most thrilling. Påskekrim, or “Easter crime,” is a time when Norwegians read crime novels and consume crime “culture” during Easter’s Holy Week. Bookstore displays are full of detective novels, newspapers publish special literary supplements, and television and radio stations run crime shows; think Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes, and Alfred Hitchcock. As peculiar as this tradition may sound, it’s rooted in history. In 1923, an editor bought ad space on the front page of a newspaper to advertise one of his authors’ crime novels. The ad appeared in large headline type as if it were an important news story, and readers quickly became fearful.
Bobolees, Trinidad & Tobago
In Christian history, Judas was charged with aiding and abetting the decision to crucify Jesus. Such is the reason that in Trinidad, a key tradition is creating an effigy of Judas — commonly called a Good Friday bobolee — that is then beaten, kicked, and spat upon by local residents. The bobolee is normally made of old rags and dried grass, and is intended to symbolize retribution for Judas’ betrayal of Christ. Though the origin of the word “bobolee” is muddled, it has since come to represent any individual who is taken advantage of by others or who has received a severe beating.
One of Hungary’s Easter traditions is tied to an old country custom. Historically, young farmhands were allowed to toss a bucket of cold water over girls of a marriageable age, or dip them in a stream. Now, there is much less water (it’s mostly been replaced by cologne), but males still stop by the homes of females to sprinkle them. After the male has performed his role, he is offered cookies, painted eggs, and often alcohol. Though the ritual was initially only for single women of marrying age, it now involves women of all ages and relations.