This article was translated from the Spanish version.
Just like every year around this time, we’re preparing for Easter – and although some people take off on vacation, others use this time to keep up ancestral traditions. They take part in rituals already well-know from childhood, marveling at religious processions and tucking in to plentiful Easter feasts. Unlike the familiar Easter Bunny and his eggs, some of these customs from different cultures are far less known, but no less remarkable!
1. Easter eggs behind every bush
In this case, the custom shouldn’t be a particular surprise – considering that all Christians celebrate Easter with painted eggs and/or the delicious chocolate variety thereof. But do you also know the origin of this custom? According to legend, Mary Magdalene announced to the Emperor Tiberius that Christ had been resurrected. The Emperor simply laughed, saying that this was about as likely as if an egg suddenly turned red. The sentence had barely been spoken aloud, and already a wonderful tradition was born.
2. The Dance of the Dead
In Verges in the province of Girona, you can attend one of the oldest (and most unusual) processions in Spain, which takes place on the night of Maundy Thursday, when the residents of the town gather together to dance in clothing painted with skeletons.
3. Halloween or Easter?
In Sweden and Finland, there are confusing traditions that originated somewhere in the interaction between Christian and ancient pagan customs. Children in witch costumes and painted faces make an Easter pilgrimage from house to house, collecting candy – sound familiar? During the Easter festival, it’s also customary to organize enormous bonfires.
4. “Burial de Genarín” – the Genarín funeral
The pagan festival in Leon consists of a funeral procession on the night of Maundy Thursday, honoring Genaro Blanco: a famous friend of hard alcohol and brothels, well-known in the bohemian circles of his day. On this night in 1929, he died when he was run over by the “Bonifacia,” the city’s first garbage truck.
The tradition of celebrating Genaríns funeral was born in 1930, and has continued steadfastly to the present day.
5. The Easter Bilby, for those who hate rabbits
Since 1993, Australia has been the site of an anti-rabbit campaign, stemming from the rabbit’s unpopularity on the continent as an imported animal responsible for endangering native species through its rapid reproduction. The cherished alternative to the Easter Bunny came in the form of the sympathetic Easter Bilby, a small rodent that brings painted eggs to the celebration. This campaign is fighting for the protection of the endangered species with enormous ears. Instead of typical chocolate confections, local chocolatiers specialize in chocolate Bilbys this time of year.
6. Monday: Water Fight
In Poland, Easter Monday is the time to celebrate the festival known as Śmigus-Dyngus, which moves people of all ages to throw water on each other and symbolically whip each other’s legs with willow branches (typically a subtle way for boys to show their affection). It is said that this seasonal practice cleans away dirt, disease, and sin – a spring clean for the soul, so to speak. Sounds fun in any case!
7. Picnic at the cemetery
In Russia, people seek out an unusual location in an attempt include deceased family members in the Easter celebration. Instead of taking a seat at a sumptuously laid Easter table, many in Russia picnic at the cemetery, noshing on easter eggs and cookies next to (or directly on top of) the graves of their favorite relatives. Some even leave a glass of vodka for the deceased.
8. Rabbit Hunt
During the “Great Easter Bunny Hunt” in New Zealand, thousands of wild hares are hunted – a tradition based on the belief that the hares are a plague, threatening the country’s ecological balance. Many traditions have given rise in a certain way to paradoxical practices … some of them we like more, some less. This one definitely belongs in the second category.
Do you know any other strange customs people keep for this occasion?
Collaboration: Elena Escanero