Easter is the most important religious festival in the Christian calendar. Of course, nobody ever realises this because there are no presents involved.
If there’s no chance of getting a new Xbox, then, really, what are all these so-called holy days about?
Perhaps it’s this confusion about Easter for the uninitiated that has led to some amazing traditions around the world. Here are just a few that may seem eggstravagant.
Holy Week in Spain is marked by crowds of “penitents” who dress up in pointy face-obscuring hats and form a procession in total silence. Each town has different brotherhoods that wear different colours, and many take part barefoot, but everybody keeps to the silent thing. The tradition dates back to the Middle Ages and draws lots of crowds.
— Amy Feldtmann (@AmyFeldtmann) April 19, 2014
The Burning of Judas – Spain, Greece, Venezuela, etc
In parts of several countries that include Greece, Spain, Venezuela, and our old friend The Philippines, some Easter enthusiasts like to get a big effigy of Judas Iscariot and burn it in a big fire. Sometimes they even dramatically hang the effigy first, which is actually more appropriate seeing as that’s how the Bible says the disciple dealt with his guilt after betraying Jesus. Ironically, if Judas hadn’t betrayed Jesus, then the latter wouldn’t have been crucified and thus died for everybody’s sins – so if these Judas burners were thinking about it rationally they wouldn’t attack Judas’ effigy at all, but maybe simply keep a nice drawing of him in their dining room.
Fireworks in a giant antique cart – Florence, Italy
The Scoppio del Carro procession commemorates Easter by making use of the city’s three flints from the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. These bits of rock were given to an influential Florentine more than 900 years ago and every year since they’ve been used to ignite a flame or two for Easter. The modern ceremony involves a priest in the Church of Santi Apostoli using them to light a fuse hanging from inside the church linked to a 30-foot-tall and 500-year-old antique cart outside filled with fireworks. It really ought to be left alone in a museum. But, you know, Jesus or something.
— Michal Josephy (@michaljosephy) March 31, 2013
Egg rolling – 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington DC
Egg rolling is a popular pastime in England that inevitably made its way over to the USA. The most famous egg roll is the one held on the White House lawn where the POTUS and FLOTUS invite kids to push eggs around with a spoon while surrounded by CIA bodyguards dressed up as cartoon characters.
Flying kites – Bermuda
On the islands of Bermuda, people fly big decorative kites at Easter because apparently they represent Jesus going up to heaven.
A Bermuda kite 2014! pic.twitter.com/K8PZckdA4h
— Ray Robinson (@Ray_Robinson) April 22, 2014
Spanking – Czech Republic and Slovakia
In the Czech Republic and Slovakia, they have a blush-worthy tradition that involves young men spanking women they’re attracted to with home-made whips. They put ribbons on them though, so you know it’s festive. Apparently, it’s supposed to give the spanked women good health for the next year … until their next spanking. We’re guessing this is supposed to represent the torture Jesus went through.
Water fights – Poland
After the big slap-up meal they enjoy on Easter Sunday, the people of Poland spend the next day chucking loads of water at each other. Traditionally, it was supposed to be men splashing women that they wanted to court, but over the years Smigus Dyngus has become an unpredictable aqua free-for-all. Stories of bus doors opening and teenagers chucking in whole buckets of water are not uncommon. Some people refuse to leave the house for fear of getting wet, but if you’re up for it, the day does offer a lot of fun. Not sure what Jesus would make of it though.
— Michigan Polish (@MIPolish) April 21, 2014
Egg tossing – Idaho, Scotland and more
Many western games at Easter involve throwing eggs, usually hard-boiled, until it breaks. This probably symbolises the fact you shouldn’t really throw eggs around. The largest egg tossing competition ever held was in 2011 in Grangeville, Idaho – it saw 2,130 people scramble for a single solitary egg, like pigeons clawing at a single stale breadcrumb.
Murder mysteries – Norway
For some unknown reason, the Scandinavian country of Norway has decided Easter weekend is that time of year when it’s best to read or watch murder mysteries. The ratings for normally unwatched Poirot repeats suddenly shoot up as hordes of Norwegians try to get into the Easter spirit. Perhaps this initially silly-seeming tradition makes sense on reflection – Jesus’ death and resurrection was basically the first blockbuster murder story.
— Anders (@anofsti) April 30, 2014
Crucifixions – Philippines
The Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country. To prove its allegiance to the Vatican from half a world away, the country feels it needs to shout as loudly as possible, ideally by spending Good Friday hammering nails into devout volunteers in recreation of Jesus’ crucifixion. Despite the church officially condemning the tradition, hundreds of men around the country annually put up with insane amounts of pain while huge crowds of onlookers collectively mumble “Oooh, rather you than me, mate.” And to think, most people in the UK think eating a bit of chocolate at Easter is bad for them.
Self-flagellation – Philippines
The Philippines, for the second time on our list, seems intent on proving that they take Easter way more seriously than any other country. Certain party animals in San Fernando and Mandaluyong just can’t wait for the crucifixions on Good Friday so they spend Maundy Thursday whipping themselves or simply tying themselves to sticks. To enhance the experience, they put a hood on themselves, possibly so that they don’t have to look at all the blood they’re drawing.
A photo posted by @snyky on
Arson in general – Cyprus
The Mediterranean island of Cyprus is the most enthusiastic place when it comes to celebrating Easter by burning things. There are bonfires all over the place and sometimes the police has to be called in as it spreads to buildings. The fire represents burning Judas, but as mentioned before, that doesn’t make any sense, plus all sorts of random things end up ignited.
Hugging churches – England
Nobody’s particularly clear why but about 200 years ago there was an apparent revival of “clipping” churches. This rather jolly tradition involves the parishioners of a church going outside, forming a circle around the building and then hugging it. Unfortunately only a handful of churches still do this today, possibly because the hippies have the clipping market cornered with all their tree hugging.
— Ian Greenfield (@PethertonMarket) September 1, 2014
Easter egg trees – Germany and Austria
Everybody is so obsessed with Christmas trees, it’s time another holiday-linked shrub had some attention. Easter egg trees are, as the name suggests, trees covered in Easter eggs, but unlike their winter counterparts, the spring holiday trees remain in their outdoor positions because it doesn’t much matter what kind of tree you choose. The most famous Easter egg trees are covered in thousands of eggs and attract visitors from miles around.
Egg dancing – England
Egg dancing is another old English tradition that is less popular nowadays but definitely needs a mention. Simply find a nice dancefloor, put down a bunch of eggs and then dance on it. The idea is to avoid breaking the eggs. Again, this doesn’t seem to have much in common with Easter but adherents claim that stepping on an egg represents rebirth. Nobody believes the egg-dancing loons though.
Rocket war – Chios, Greece
The little island of Chios celebrates Easter in the form of Rouketopolemos. Translated as “rocket war”, it’s exactly as it sounds: two rival churches firing rockets at each other. Thousands of home-made rockets whistle through the air across the 400 metres that separates the normally peaceful congregations as they attempt to strike each other’s bell tower. Although there’s lots of property damage to the area, the event was apparently even more destructive in the past as the churches used actual canons.
— Mike Johnson (@MiguelJohnson) April 21, 2014
The Australian Easter Bunny
Australia doesn’t have indigenous mammals but rather marsupials, furry animals that like to keep their young in their pouch. The Aussie equivalent of the rabbit is the bilby, a cute but endangered little blighter that became the country’s alternative mascot in the late 1960s. You can buy chocolate Easter bilbies and everything, so you know it’s legit.