For many of us Easter is a time of cute bunnies and chicks and a ton of chocolate and candy and for others it’s a festival of incredibly important religious significance that actually starts 40 days before Good Friday on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. It’s not surprising that many people give up chocolate for Lent knowing they are going to gorge themselves sick over the Easter weekend. Abstinence followed by abundance is a well known secular practice but here are 7 strange Easter traditions from around the world.
1. Thou Shalt Not Knead the Dough
As if men needed any more excuses to stay out of the kitchen, in Poland a man does not take part in baking the Easter bread because his moustache will turn grey and the dough will fail to rise.
2. Let Them Eat Egg
Well, here’s one different way of using eggs in a not so very strange Easter tradition. Easter omelettes are a big way of celebrating the occasion right across France but they do it just a bit differently in Haux in the Nantes province. Every Easter Monday the townspeople of take their eggs to a huge pan in the main square and make a huge omelette. More than 4,500 eggs are used to create a dish that feeds 1,000 people.
3. Domestic Violence is Good for You
Do you want to know how to maintain your health and beauty throughout the next year? Well if you live in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and some parts of Hungary it’s easy. On Easter Monday you just wait your turn for the men to throw water at you and spank you with a handmade whip of willow decorated with ribbons. “Pomlazka” is also meant to get rid of the ugly and bad things of winter. Many countries with an Orthodox population celebrate this in some form or another but in most cases it is just the water throwing. It is known in variable connotations of Dyngus Day.
4. Beware Greeks Throwing Pots
Greece has many festivals and Saints Days because Easter is more important than Christmas in the Orthodox calendar but amongst their strangest traditions is in Corfu when they throw crockery and pots out of the windows on Easter Saturday. There are a few theories that try to explain this. Some say it represents the rejection of Judas, others say it is simply the exuberance of having a smashing time after the abstinence of Lent, other theorists expound it symbolises getting rid of evil, others that it marks the change of the season when old pots of last year’s harvest are exchanged for new and others think it’s adopted from the old Venetian custom of throwing out your winter things ready for new ones for Spring. Whatever the reason, if you visit Corfu at Easter time be sure to wear your hard hat.
5. Lords of the Dance
In a small town called Bacup in the North of England, every Easter Saturday you can watch the Nutter's Dance. No it isn’t a day the lunatics escape from the asylum but the name given to a strange Easter tradition that has been performed in the town, boundary to boundary, since the 18th century. Led by the Whiffler (or Whipper In) who cracks his whip to drive away evil spirits, a band of men with blackened faces and skirted red, white and black costumes and neck garlands dance traditional folk dances. The origin is believed to have been Moorish sailors who ended up in the area somehow, hence the face coloring and costume style but why it happens on Easter Saturday, there’s no real explanation.
6. Eggstraordinary Behaviour
Another strange Easter tradition that you will find practised in some form or another right across Christian countries is the lucky egg game. Hardboiled eggs are used in various ways until only one unbroken one is left and the person holding that egg has good luck until next Easter. In Latvia it is performed like a game of conkers, in Greece the eggs are dyed red representing the blood of Christ and you bang the eggs on your neighbour’s heads and in England it is known as Egg Jarping and around the world it might be known as egg tapping or egg knocking.
I have to admit that I find this strange Easter tradition the most surprising of all and I’m not sure that the answer is "the butler did it." In Norway, Easter is a five day bank holiday where all shops and businesses close. Grocery stores open on the Saturday before Easter Sunday but otherwise during the holiday shut down Norwegians celebrate Easter by reading tons of crime novels known as Påskekrimmen. TV stations also join in by broadcasting plenty of crime thrillers and magazines print stories for readers to work out a whodunit. Even milk cartons are altered where for a couple of weeks a mystery story is printed on their sides. Why? It’s a mystery!
After reading this little lot of the world’s strange Easter traditions I’m glad my celebrations are centered on chocolate although I have to confess I do have a liking of hot cross buns and can happily eat them all year round. Do you have any particular way of marking Easter?