Posted on by Beckworth & Co

14 Fascinating Easter Traditions Around the World

Easter isn’t always about eggs and bunnies. Easter is a story of sacrifice, but also of rebirth and hope. It’s about the triumph of life over death. Easter is considered to be one of the holiest days on the Christian calendar, but due to much commercialization, the holiday is rapidly losing its religious significance. However, some cultures continue to celebrate Easter in more traditional ways. And a few do go pretty far from what we're used to when it comes to traditions. From kids dressing like it’s Halloween to bizarre rituals, we’ve listed down some of the world’s most fascinating and strangest Easter traditions.



Finland Easter kids wearing witch costume

The Wandering Witches of Easter

Halloween comes early to Finland and Sweden as children dress up as witches and wander the streets with broomsticks on a hunt for treats. The young witches wear decorated headscarves and paint their faces with freckles. They carry bunches of willow twigs decorated with colorful feathers and crepe paper, paintings, and drawings which they exchange for sweet treats. The tradition comes from the legend that the Swedish witches went to Blåkulla before Easter to party with the devil. And to make sure the witches won’t come back, they burn big bonfires on Easter Sunday.
Easter bunny hunt

The Great Easter Bunny Hunt

Easter might be about cute bunnies and chocolate eggs for most. But in one part of New Zealand, it's an all-out hunt, and rabbits are the target. The annual Easter Bunny Hunt in Central Otago, on the country's South Island, has one simple goal - to kill as many rabbits as possible in 24 hours.

Since being introduced to New Zealand in the 1800s, rabbits have overrun the Central Otago region, posing a significant threat to biodiversity and agriculture.  While some would see the hunt as a “total slaughter”, the last protest over the bunny bloodshed had been 15 years ago. Now and then animal activists would attend the event but would change their position after seeing the damage caused by the rabbits.



Antigua Easter Parade

Floral Street Carpets

The city of Antigua in Guatemala holds one of the world’s largest Easter extravaganzas. It involves gargantuan religious parade floats that require up to 100 citizens to carry and somber black crepe paper strewn through the streets. But the most fascinating Easter tradition is the intricate sand and flower designs called Alfombras (the Spanish word for carpet) that line the streets.

Residents along the streets begin preparations weeks and even months in advance creating these beautifully intricate offerings. Sawdust is sifted so that it’s very fine before it’s dyed and is first laid to level the cobblestone. Pine needles, flowers, and native plants are also used for decoration and fragrance. Local artists use stencils to quickly assemble the carpets since they have just 24 hours the day before the Good Friday processions to create these works of art that are sometimes half a mile long.


Photo by Semana Santa De Guatemala (Patrimonio Cultural De La Nación)



Australia Easter Bilby

Chocolate Easter Bilbies

The beloved Easter bunny looks a bit different down under. While in the US, children get up early on Easter Sunday to sneak a peek at the Easter Bunny, a different animal has taken up the bunny’s job in Australia.

In 1991, non-profit Rabbit-Free Australia launched a campaign to replace the rabbit (which is an invasive species in the country) with the endangered bilby. The big-eared marsupial is under threat due to an increase in predators and European wild rabbits taking over their habitats.

In 1993, Melba's Chocolates received a petition from an eight-year-old schoolgirl, Rebecca Hart, and her classmates asking them to produce an Easter Bilby. Rebecca sought to create awareness of the plight of the Bilby through their production. Through the encouragement of the community, the Australian native treat took off, with its popularity soaring. And from there, the chocolate bilby has become a staple Australian Easter treat, with thousands upon thousands sold every year, in various sizes and flavors.



Czech Republic Easter Whipping Pomlazka

Easter Whipping

If you're a woman and you find yourself in the Czech Republic or Slovakia on Easter Monday, it is perhaps best to stay indoors. In a particularly distinctive tradition, Czech men will tie ribbons to willow branch whips on Easter Monday and gently "whip" the women on their legs or buttocks to wish them good luck and health. Although not intended to be painful, the Easter tradition is said to bring the women vitality and fertility, which is symbolically transferred through the branches of the willow tree; the first tree to bloom in the spring. Men receive painted eggs or chocolate in exchange, as well as an alcoholic shot for the road for those of legal drinking age. Though some Czech women disagree with the tradition, others say it's an important piece of folklore and culture.

While boys used to make their own Pomlázkas in the past, it was particularly difficult to braid one. And it gets more complicated the more twigs they used. This skill is not widespread anymore and Pomlázkas can be bought in stores and street stands. Some men don't even bother and use a single twig or even a wooden spoon.


Photo by Radio Prague International



Norway Easter Crime

Easter Crime

Bingeing on crime fiction may not be your first choice of Easter activity, but it’s high on the list for Norwegians. Hundreds of thousands of Norwegians indulge in crime fiction novels and Nordic noir TV and film every Easter. Known as Easter Crime (Påskekrim), the tradition is just as well known within Norway as it is confusing to visitors.

This Norwegian ritual dates back to 1923, and it started when authors Nordahl Grieg and Nils Lie decided to do their own promotion for their new book about an Easter train robbery. Rather than placing a traditional ad in the newspaper, they persuaded the editors to include an excerpt from the book on the first page. Readers believed the story to be actual news and were instantly enthralled, even when they discovered the story was fiction. Norwegians purchased the book in droves and from that point on an Easter tradition was born.



Bermuda Kites

Kite Festival

For most Bermudians and residents, Good Friday is a time for kite flying. The Kite Festival has spanned more than four decades and is a major part of the Bermudan Easter tradition. On Good Friday, enthusiasts head to various parts of the island to show off, test and view homemade kites that soar to the skies. Bermuda kites tend to be brightly colored with bold geometric designs. Bermuda kites have long cloth tails and are in different colors of paper tissue, wood, and string. Some are huge, in exquisite patterns, and require several men to get them airborne. While some are deliberately made to emit a humming or buzzing sound, with a hummer made from glued paper.

No one knows when this long-standing Bermuda tradition began, although one popular narrative claims it began with a clever Sunday school teacher's lesson on Jesus Christ's ascent to heaven. According to legend, the teacher built a cross kite, flew it to a hilltop, cut the rope, and the students watched it sail upward into heaven. Kite flying on Good Friday is now a much-anticipated tradition in Bermuda, regardless of how it began.



Easter Bonnet Parade

Bonnet Parade

The Easter bonnet originated as a European tradition. People would dress up in new outfits and caps to commemorate the arrival of spring and Easter, which symbolizes new life and rebirth. And one method to celebrate the significance was to get new clothing or hats. According to some historians, it was thought that if you didn't have anything new to wear on Easter, you wouldn't have good luck that year. When the Easter hat became popular, bonnets were the most frequent sort of head covering for a 19th-century woman, so the word, though not the style, persisted.

The tradition didn't catch on in the United States until after the Civil War. People were stepping out with positivity in their lives and would stream out of the churches following the Easter service dressed up to the nines in their best hats. The first Easter Parade was the Fifth Avenue Parade in New York in 1870, which didn't appear to be a planned event but grew spontaneously as the beautiful people went down Fifth Avenue from St Patrick's Cathedral and nearby churches.

The Easter bonnet was brought into American pop culture by the Berlin song in 1933. However, the parade and bonnets didn’t peak in popularity until the 1940s with over one million people participating in the tradition in 1947.



Portugal Easter Almonds

Easter Almonds

If you visit Portugal close to Easter time you are bound to see store windows filled with bowls of almond candies. That’s because it is part of the Portuguese Easter tradition for people to give each other almonds or amêndoas, particularly between godparents and godchildren. The meaning of the  Easter Almond is similar to that of the Easter egg. It is an icon of fecundity and renewal, coming from traditions from different parts of the country and the world that signify birth and life, thus being related to the Resurrection of Jesus.



German Easter Tree

Easter Egg Tree

An Easter egg tree, also known as an Ostereierbaum, is a delightful Easter tradition that began in Germany and is also popular in Poland, Austria, and Hungary. Originally, hollowed-out eggs were used to ornament an exterior tree or bush. Today, they are decorated both inside and outside of the home with Easter eggs and many other types of Easter ornaments and Easter tree decorations.

In the U.S., Easter trees are especially popular in the Pennsylvania Dutch region. Across parts of Pennsylvania and Appalachia, women considered egg trees a type of good-luck charm especially when it came to fertility. And you can find pockets of the South that wholly embrace the tradition too.



Polish Easter Smigus Dyngus

Water Fight

Śmigus Dyngus, also known as Lany Poniedziałek or wet Monday, is a Polish Easter Monday tradition that involves people throwing excessive amounts of water at people. Traditionally guys soak girls on Monday, and Tuesday is time for revenge, with girls soaking the guys. This happens all over the country. The festival dates back a few centuries when boys would sneak into the girls’ rooms on Easter Monday and throw buckets of water over them while they were still in bed.

Śmigus Dynguss were originally separate events. Śmigus involved the act of throwing water and Dyngus was the act of using Pisanki (Polish Easter eggs) to buy your way out of getting soaked. Both traditions merged over time.

Today Dingus Day In America is mostly celebrated in Buffalo, New York which is called an annual post-Lenten bash with a cast of tens of thousands of revelers. It is considered by many to be the largest Dyngus Day celebration in the country today.


Photo by Poloniny Ensemble



Lo Scoppio del Carro

Lo Scoppio Del Carro

Florence celebrates Easter in a very special way. On Easter Sunday every year, The Scoppio del Carro, or Explosion of the Cart takes place every Easter Sunday in piazza del Duomo, and it dates back over 350 years.

It all started when a young Florentine named Pazzino, a member of the noble Pazzi family, apparently took part in the First Crusade in the Holy Land in 1099. When he came home, he brought back three flints from the Holy Sepulchre that he received for his act of courage. These 3 flints are still what they use today to light the Easter Candle. Which in turn, is used to light some coals which are placed in a container on the Cart.

The festival is celebrated just as it’s always been. The Dove rocket, which is ignited by the sacred fire that was started using Piazzo’s flints, is launched down the cable flying across the nave of the cathedral. It then hits the cart that’s loaded with firecrackers, setting off an explosion and lighting the fireworks. This particular cart is the same one they’ve been using since the 18th century.

Hundreds of multi-colored wisps of smoke fill the air, alongside the sounds of whistles and bursts, while at the top of the cart, a pinwheel starts to spin that, when finished twirling, opens like the petals of a lily with a thunderous pop.


Photo by Giulio Monasta



Easter Crucifixion Philippines

Reenactment of Jesus' Crucifixion

About 80 percent of the 110 million people in the Philippines are Catholic. So it's no surprise that Filipinos are fiercely dedicated to their religion and hold religious festivities, such as Easter, in high regard.  

The re-enactment of Jesus Christ's crucifixion and self-flagellation happen every Good Friday only in San Pedro Cutud and San Fernando in the province of Pampanga, about a 1.5-hour drive north of Manila. Devotees of penitents called Magdarame in Kapampangan are willingly crucified in imitation of Jesus Christ's suffering and death, while related practices include carrying wooden crosses, crawling on rough pavement, and self-flagellation. Penitents consider these acts to be mortification of the flesh and undertake these to ask forgiveness for sins, to fulfill a panatà (vow), or to express gratitude for favors granted.

The Church today discourages these radical religious practices in the Philippines because self-harm is contrary to its teaching on the body. Even though it was the Spanish friars that were the ones who brought the idea of the Penitencia (repentance for one’s sins) in the late 16th century.


Photo by Creative Commons



Greece Red Easter Eggs

Red Easter Eggs

Greeks have been cracking red eggs at Easter for many centuries. In Greece, red Easter eggs are traditionally dyed on Holy Thursday with either onion skins or dye. They are the first food eaten after the strict fasting of Lent in some families.

The tradition is of course steeped in religious symbolism as well. The red color symbolizes the blood and sacrifice of Christ on the cross and the egg symbolizes rebirth. The first red egg that is dyed is considered to be the egg of the Virgin Mary and is saved in the home for protection.




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