Believe it or not, Easter is just around the corner - but wait, wasn’t it still Christmas, like, yesterday?! Indeed, we can all safely say that 2019 is passing by quickly, and by the end of April we will already have celebrated yet another Christian holiday. But what do the history books say about Easter? Are there some unique ways European cultures celebrate this festivity, without just having to prepare decorated eggs and chocolate bunnies? Let’s find out!
a cultural and religious holiday that marks the resurrection of Jesus Christ after his burial and crucifixion by the Romans during the year of 30 AD. But unlike other Christian festivals, Easter is celebrated on different dates each year - as it falls under the group of moveable feasts in Christianity. Furthermore, the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church announce two completely separate periods for Easter celebrations, with the Western groups having 21st April and the Eastern 28th April as official dates.
Another unique, historical aspect of Easter is the week that precedes the holiday – also known as the Holy Week, which represents certain days and events before the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For example, there is Holy Thursday celebrating the Last Supper with the 12 Apostles, Good Friday, and finally - Easter Sunday. Good, time to close the history page and move on to the next one – holiday traditions and celebrations around European countries. Starting alphabetically, first we have:
If you thought that we missed out on explaining why eggs are the most associated symbol of Easter, then rest assured – we have the perfect example and explanation with Bulgaria. As in many cultures, Bulgarians decorate and prepare many eggs for their celebrations while following the common belief that the egg represents birth, fertility and life.
However, the Bulgarian traditions are not all about decorations, but rather a much more fun activity – egg fighting! One typical fight involves two people picking up their brawler eggs and then attempting to break their opponent’s top and bottom afterwards. The winner then continues to brawl with others, usually within the family, until the person of the strongest egg is finally pronounced victorious and holder of the biggest luck within the running year.
Next, we have another interesting country and Easter holiday tradition that might initially sound a little bit strange. But according to legends, Czech women have to be delicately spanked with a special Easter whip for beauty, good health and most importantly, fertility.
If you are already wondering what the Easter whip is like, it consists of a specific number of willow rods that are decorated with ribbons on one end. And since willow trees are among the first to bloom in early April, Czechs believe that the branches can transfer their vitality to women with the careful act of spanking with this form of whips.
Nordic people are known for their unique culture, celebrations and traditions, but wait until you hear this - during Easter, Finnish children dress up as witches and wander from house to house looking for treats. Indeed, something like a second Halloween, primarily with small girls going around with the aim of pushing evil spirits away.
More interestingly, the small witches bring willow twigs along with their frightening costumes, while in return they expect to receive small chocolate Easter eggs. And in case words are also needed, there is one hugely popular saying that goes: Virvon, varvon, tuoreeks terveeks, tulevaks vuodeks; vitsa sulle, palkka mulle!
Coming back to the Balkans and the local traditions, the Greek are well popular for their love of breaking all sorts of items, especially plates, when expressing positive feelings at celebrations. And during Easter, they also seem to be having a hard time holding back – as many sources describe an annual holiday ceremony that occurs in Corfu, a small island in the Ionian Sea.
More specifically, residents of the city start throwing clay pots out of their windows aiming to loudly crash them directly onto the street below. With this act, that is annually organized on Holy Saturday, the Greek attempt to recreate the same earthquake that occurred during Jesus Christ’s resurrection and mark the beginning of the new fruitful plantation season.
Similarly to the Czech Republic, the Hungarians have a female-related Easter tradition that comes in various forms in other neighbouring countries as well. Just as a ritual, males first read out poems to girls and women, but afterwards – lay out a bucket of cold water right onto them!
Odd or not, holiday traditions say that water can induce a cleansing effect on Easter Monday while others speak of the improved fertility of the sprinkled ones. Some sprinkling, right? Well, other methods also include using cologne or a perfume instead of cold water but more interestingly, males even get to receive treats or a kiss in return. Some trade deal!