Easter traditions around the world

From chocolate bilbies to animal sacrifices, and camp bonnets to Jesus kites, there is a multitude of weirdness crammed into the fifty-day-long Easter festival.

21 Mar 2016

While we may be more accustomed to Easter egg hunts, bunnies and pancakes, there are plenty of cultural interpretations which stray from the chocolate-fest celebrated at home.

Good Friday kites – Bermuda

As legend has it, a local Sunday School teacher launched a kite that looked Jesus Christ to explain how Jesus elevated himself to heaven. Though most kites flown still use a cross as part of the structure, the modern day kites come in many shapes and sizes and are usually made with colourful tissue paper.

Easter whipping – Slovakia

Harking from a ‘different’ time, the folk custom of playfully whipping women and dousing them in water was once believed to purify the souls and bodies of Slovakia’s ladies. While not strictly related to Easter, the tradition slotted into the annual festivities when Christianity came to town in the ninth century. In Poland there is a custom of sprinkling young, unmarried woman with holy water on Easter Monday in a bid to inspire romance.

Easter witches – Sweden

During Holy Week in Sweden and some parts of Finland, little girls dress up in rags, old clothes and shawls, and door-knock in their neighbourhoods, trading paintings and drawings for lollies. The Halloween-esque tradition is said to have arisen from the old belief that witches would fly overhead on the Thursday before Easter to scheme with Satan. The locals would then light fires to scare the witches away when they made their journey back – a practice still honoured with bonfires and fireworks in the lead up to Easter.

Easter bonnets – New York

In the mid-1800s fancy New Yorkers would bust out of church after the Easter service and parade their Sunday Best on Fifth Avenue. From these somewhat elitist beginnings the famous Fifth Avenue Easter Parade was born. In its present-day form the parade is less high-society and more kitschy flamboyance, with live birds’ nests in bonnets and massive floral explosions making the rounds.

Holy Week Parades – Haiti

The Haitian spin on Holy Week is a fusion of both Catholic and Voodoo traditions, marked by colourful parades and traditional music. Voodoo believers make an annual pilgrimage to the village of Souvenance where animal sacrifices and other offerings are left for spirits in a show of devotion.

Whatever traditions you take part in, have a safe and happy holiday.

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