Think holiday lunch with your in-laws is tough? Be thankful you’re not celebrating the resurrection in Slovakia or the Philippines, says Dilvin Yasa, as she checks out the world’s most ‘unique’ Easter traditions.
Image: HOORAY! Issue 10
For many of us, Easter wouldn’t be Easter without throwing the odd vase or two during a heated family argument. However on the Greek island of Corfu, they take it to a whole new level. On the morning of Holy Saturday, it’s pot-throwing aplenty as good citizens take to hurling pots, pans and various other breakables out the window. Some say the custom is derived from the Venetians who used to throw out all their old items on New Year’s Day, while others believe it symbolises the start of spring with new crops growing in new pots.
2. South America
In countries such as Mexico and Venezuela, it’s customary to hang, then burn, an effigy of Judas (the betrayer of Christ) on the Friday or Saturday before Easter. And of course, some who are still really pissed with Judas will even stuff the effigy with fireworks, which as you can imagine, the kids just love. After all, who needs a cute little Easter Bunny turning up on the doorstep when you can greet little ones with a burning effigy hanging from above?
3. Eastern Europe
Domestic violence is all fun and games in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, where there’s an Easter Monday tradition based around men spanking women with handmade whips made of willow and decorated with ribbons. Tell it to the judge, but apparently it comes from the belief that the willow is the first tree to bloom in spring. By whipping someone with it, rather than causing grievous bodily harm as one could rightfully claim in an AVO application, the branches are meant to transfer the tree’s fertility to the woman. Riiight.
You probably don’t want to be in Poland on Easter Monday either, lest you get caught up in Śmigus–Dyngus, a tradition where local boys spend the day trying to drench others with water guns, water balloons and buckets of water. The tradition has its origins in the baptism of Polish Prince Mieszko in 966 AD (although we’ll hazard a guess he wasn’t baptised by water gun), and legend has it that girls who get soaked will marry within the year.
Within the Easter context, eggs are a symbol of life, so what better way to celebrate this than by smashing them to create monster omelettes as they do in France? In the township of Haux in particular, locals come together every Easter Monday to take their eggs to a huge pan in the main square and it’s said some 4,500 eggs are used in order to feed around 1,000 people.
In Russia, Easter lunch is simply not Easter lunch without the addition of a ‘butter lamb’ – a side of butter sculpted into the shape of a cute little lamb. Which is then attacked with knives. Bon appetit!
There’s nothing like celebrating Easter Sunday by lighting a huge bonfire in your backyard, according to some in western Finland. Borne from the Nordic belief that witches come out to play between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, the flames are said to keep them away from your crib. We say kill two birds (lambs?) with one stone and throw your protein in the pit – this thing is a barbecue.
In the Philippines, many Filipino Catholics perform a somewhat bloody penance during the week leading up to Easter. In a move believed to cleanse the sins of devotees, half-naked penitents whip their backs with blades and bamboo sticks as they walk barefoot in sweltering heat. Hardcore? Yes, but still the preferred choice over lunching with the extended family.
Trust the Swiss to do something pretty and non-violent for Easter. The Franconian Swiss celebrate what they perceive as the gift of life – water – by teaming up and decorating wells with beautifully painted eggs and colourful spring flowers.
Noticed the abundance of chocolate bilbies available on the shelves this Easter? It’s a clever campaign to erase the humble bunny from your holiday psyche and replace it with the true blue version. The reason? Rabbits are considered pests, while the bilby is a uniquely Australian animal that’s endangered.
Rather than feast on chocolate eggs and roast lamb, Columbians are notorious for smuggling exotic reptiles and beasties into the country to prepare a truly special lunch for their families. On the menu? Iguana, turtles and rodents big and small.
One of the strangest Easter traditions around the world is Norway’s Påskekrim (‘Easter crime’), a time of year when Norwegians use Easter’s holy week to read crime novels and consume an awful lot of CSI-type shows. The quirky tradition stems from a misunderstanding in 1923 when a crime novel was advertised in a newspaper in such a convincing way, residents thought it was a real headline and quickly became terrified. Since then, both the retail and media world have jumped on board with an abundance of crime editorial, detective novels and TV crime specials. What this has to do with Easter itself is anyone’s guess.
Lastly, why limit Easter celebrations to April, when you can celebrate it every single day of the year in the world’s first Jesus theme park in Argentina? Visitors to Tierra Santa in Buenos Aires can enjoy this kitsch land (handily located right next to a water park) where the life and times of JC is told through the joys of animatronics, realistic sets and fluorescent lighting. During the holidays, their A-game is brought front and centre with a plastic Jesus resurrected every 60 minutes and actors playing out the crucifixion for your viewing pleasure.