For those without religious inclination, Easter is a time for cute Easter bunnies, gorging on chocolate eggs and joyous celebrations. But while some traditions and rituals seem to have universal appeal, others offer a weird and wonderful insight into the differing cultural eccentricities that litter the globe. Here we uncover some delightful and downright bizarre Easter traditions from around the world.
Egg Rolling: Washington DC, USA
Egg roll anyone? Practically an American institution, the presidential ritual of egg rolling on the lawns of the White House goes all the way back to the 1800s. Apparently this tradition emerged when the meanies from Congress passed a law forbidding the Capitol grounds to be used as a children's playground. In reaction to the news, President Hayes made an official order that should any children turn up to egg roll on the lawn of the White House they would have permission to do so. Fast-forward a few centuries and the tradition is still as popular as ever, although nowadays you’ll need to enter a special lottery to even have a chance of getting an invite.
Danza de la Muerte: Verges, Spain
Originating from the small village of Verges, near the Costa Brava in Catalonia, this ancient dance of death has become a mainstay of Easter rituals. The spooky dance is rooted in medieval history and symbolises the Passion of Christ and the moment when dead souls are condemned to heaven, or hell, or purgatory. Dancers dress in dark robes or skeleton costumes and often have props like clocks or sickles for added effect, moving to the sounds of dramatic drumbeats. This remains a cherished relic of past civilisations and has become a highly celebrated and much preserved part of the Easter holidays in Spain.
Easter Fires: Fredericksburg, Texas, USA
Lighting fires on hillsides may not sound totally safe, or even sacred, but this local ritual pays homage to the history of a small Texan town named Fredericksburg. Based on an age-old fable from early German settlers way back in 1840, legend has it that the pilgrims went to make a peace treaty with the neighbouring Comanche tribe. In turn the Comanche warriors lit fires on the hills of Fredericksburg to signify to fellow tribesmen that there was no hostility between the new settlers and the indigenous community. As the fires burned high the German settlers’ children became worried and to calm them the wives told the children the fires were in fact the Easter bunny burning eggs in preparation for the festivities. Today that story is remembered via the Easter Fires of Fredericksburg Pageant, where the town get together to celebrate the peace treaty and the significance of Easter by re-enacting their inventive story.
This is somewhat of a left-field Easter tradition, and truly unique. In Norway, Easter provides the perfect excuse to delve into a crime novel. The idea of Påskekrimmen, or ‘Easter thriller’ as it translates in English, is that over the five-day holiday you unplug the phone, reach for your kindle and work your way through the spookiest, scariest crime thrillers you can find. Many Norwegians love to take part in the Easter-Thriller season, disappearing off to their holiday cabins to relax, unwind and engross themselves in a murder mystery or two!
New York: Easter Parade
Time to whip out your biggest and most elaborate Easter bonnet for the annual New York Easter parade. A favourite among New Yorkers and visitors alike, the pageant is a New York tradition and one of the city's most significant seasonal celebrations, which stretches back to the 1870s. Originally seen as a well to-do activity after church on Easter Sunday, the parade begins along the famous Fifth Avenue before marching north and finishing on 57th Street. If you’re looking for the best place to pitch up and watch the crowds go by then head to St. Patrick's Cathedral. Or dust off your most outlandish outfits and join the fun.
Main header photo: Easter bunny and eggs © Lee Kris/iStock?Thinkstock
Do you know of any interesting Easter traditions from around the world? Let us know in the comments section below.
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About the author: ChantelleChantelle Symester
Chantelle Symester is a writer and editor based in London. When she’s not chained to her laptop working she can be found hopping on a plane to far flung places across the globe. Trips so far include adventures to Mexico, South America and North Africa and she now has her heart set on discovering the East. You can find her @csymester