On 16 April many people will be tucking into chocolate Easter eggs, to celebrate the most important Christian festival. The gift of eggs dates back many centuries, although originally the eggs were carved from wood or made from precious stones. The tradition of gifting confectionery eggs became popular over 100 years ago.
Easter is celebrated around the world in a variety of unusual ways. In some countries, like the UK, parents tell their offspring that the Easter Bunny has hidden chocolate eggs, and the children have to hunt for them. In other countries painting, dyeing and decorating hard-boiled eggs is a popular tradition.
Ethnic and cultural origins impact on the way in which Easter Sunday is celebrated in different countries.
Australia celebrates Easter in much the same way as the UK. Children participate in Easter bonnet parades and get excited about hunting for Easter eggs. In Sydney, children attend the Sydney Royal Easter Show, which is Australia’s largest annual ticketed event, attracting over 850,000 people.
Every year on Good Friday, the native people of Bermuda celebrate by flying homemade kites, and feasting on hot cross buns and codfish cakes. The kite flying tradition was started by a Sunday school teacher, from the British Army, who had difficulty explaining Christ’s ascension to Heaven, to his class. To illustrate the ascension, he made a kite shaped like a cross.
To represent Judas (the disciple who betrayed Christ), Brazilians make straw dolls and hang them up in the streets, before beating them up. On Easter Saturday, many small towns hold a carnival to celebrate the end of Lent.
Instead of hiding and hunting for eggs, the people in Bulgaria have egg fights. If you catch an unbroken egg you are proclaimed the winner and good luck is bestowed on you for the rest of the year.
On Easter Monday, it’s a tradition for men to playfully spank women with ribbon decorated handmade whips made of willow. According to folklore legend, as the willow is the first tree to bloom in spring, its branches are used to transfer the tree’s vitality and fertility to the women.
In the main square of the town of Haux, a giant omelette made with 4,500 eggs is served up for 1,000 people. This tradition dates back centuries to Napoleonic times. On the way to battle his army stopped in a small town, in the south of France, and ate omelettes. Napoleon was so impressed with the meal that he ordered the townspeople to make a giant omelette for his army the next day.
There’s no need to hunt for Easter eggs in Germany. The eggs are hung from trees, creating a display of hundreds of multi coloured eggs.
On Holy Saturday, the tradition of ‘pot throwing’ takes place in Greece. People throw earthenware pots out of windows, smashing them in the street. The custom symbolises the start of spring, as new pots are bought to grow the new crops.
In Indonesia, young men consider it an honour to be chosen to play Jesus during the Easter festival. The lucky young man is tied to a cross in a re-enactment that attracts thousands of people every year.
On Good Friday, worshippers flocking to St. Peter’s Square, in the Vatican, are treated to a reconstruction of the Nativity and a re-enactment of Jesus’ life. The Pope performs the ‘stations of the Cross’ procession in Rome on Good Friday, and on Easter Sunday he conducts Mass from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica.
In Seville, religious brotherhoods unite to parade through the streets re-enacting the Easter story and the crucifixion. The daily processions of marching bands and decorated candlelit floats attract thousands of people every year.
In Sweden children dress up as Easter witches and go from house to house trading paintings and drawings in exchange for sweets.
In the USA, the President traditionally hosts the annual Easter Egg Roll, on the lawns of the White House, on Easter Monday.