The Origins of Easter & Easter Celebrations Around The World

Easter is a Christian holiday that celebrates the belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the New Testament of the Bible, the event is said to have occurred three days after Jesus was crucified by the Romans and died in roughly 30 A.D. The holiday concludes the “Passion of Christ,” a series of events and holidays that begins with Lent—a 40-day period of fasting, prayer and sacrifice—and ends with Holy Week, which includes Holy Thursday (the celebration of Jesus’ Last Supper with his 12 Apostles, also known as “Maundy Thursday”), Good Friday (on which Jesus’ crucifixion is observed) and Easter Sunday. Although a holiday of high religious significance in the Christian faith, many traditions associated with Easter date back to pre-Christian, pagan times.

Easter Eggs

Irrespective of denomination, there are many Easter-time traditions with roots that can be traced to non-Christian and even pagan or non-religious celebrations. Many non-Christians choose to observe these traditions while essentially ignoring the religious aspects of the celebration.

It’s believed that eggs represented fertility and birth in certain pagan traditions that pre-date Christianity. Egg decorating may have become part of the Easter celebration in a nod to the religious significance of Easter, i.e., Jesus’ resurrection or re-birth.

Easter Bunny

In some households, a character known as the Easter Bunny delivers candy and chocolate eggs to children on Easter Sunday morning. These candies often arrive in an Easter basket.

The exact origins of the Easter Bunny tradition are unknown, although some historians believe it arrived in America with German immigrants in the 1700s. Rabbits are, in many cultures, known as enthusiastic procreators, so the arrival of baby bunnies in springtime meadows became associated with birth and renewal.

Lamb and Other Traditional Easter Foods

Lamb is a traditional Easter food. Christians refer to Jesus as the “Lamb of God,” though lamb at Easter also has roots in early Passover celebrations. In the story of Exodus, the people of Egypt suffered a series of terrible plagues, including the death of all firstborn sons. Members of the Jewish faith painted their doorposts with sacrificed lamb’s blood so that God would “pass over” their homes. Jews who converted to Christianity continued the tradition of eating lamb at Easter. Historically, lamb would have been one of the first fresh meats available after a long winter with no livestock to slaughter.

Easter Lilies

White Easter Lilies symbolize the purity of Christ to Christians and are common decorations in churches and homes around the Easter holiday. Their growth from dormant bulbs in the ground to flowers symbolize the rebirth and hope of Christ’s resurrection. Lilies are native to Japan and were brought to England in 1777, but wound their way to the U.S. in the wake of World War I. They went on to become the unofficial flower of Easter celebrations across the United States.

 

 

easter Around The world

While decorating Easter eggs, collecting candy from the Easter bunny, and dressing up in head-to-toe pastels is common in Easter celebrations in the United States, countries around the world have their own set of Easter traditions that may surprise you. From having water fights in the streets all across Poland, to reading crime novels in Norway, to replacing the Easter Bunny with the Easter bilby in Australia, what people do during Holy Week or on Easter itself varies from culture to culture and even region to region within the same country.

No matter where in the world you are, every Easter tradition has its origin. In the United States, the holiday traditions began when German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania brought their stories of an egg-laying hare called “Osterhase” with them, The History Channel reported. Children would make nests with where the hare would lay its colorful eggs. Over time, the custom spread across the country and expanded to include Easter morning deliveries like chocolates and other holiday candies. Eventually, Easter baskets replaced the nests, and the Easter bunny replaced the hare, according to History. Easter eggs are likely linked to pagan traditions, considering eggs themselves represent an ancient symbol of new life, which was associated with Spring pagan festivals, the publication reported. In Christianity, the eggs are symbolic of Jesus’ resurrection, and decorating them marked the end of the period of penance and fasting that’s known as the Lenten season.

BERMUDA

 

Celebrating Easter is a weekend affair on the beautiful British island. The festivities begin Friday with the Good Friday KiteFest, enjoyed by locals and visitors alike, according to Go to Bermuda, the island’s travel site. People who want to celebrate take to parts of the island to show off and fly their homemade kites, often with bold geometric designs. Throughout the weekend, folks eat codfish and traditional hot cross buns. And on Easter Sunday, Bermudians attend sunrise services held on different peaches across the island.

ANTIGUA, GUATEMALA

According to Condé Nast Traveler, Antigua in southern Guatemala covers its streets in colorful carpetsthroughout Holy Week in preparation for its Good Friday procession. The long carpets are made from flowers, colored sawdust, fruits, vegetables, and sand. They’re often covered in scenes that are important to the artists who make them, ranging from religion to Mayan traditions to nature and Guatemalan history.

SAN PEDRO CUTUD, THE PHILIPPINES
 

The Philippines is a mostly Catholic country, so it makes sense that its inhabitants take Easter very seriously. According to DW Akademie, a news site, each year on Good Friday, a few people in the northern Philippines are nailed to crosses to honor Jesus’ crucifixion. Though the Catholic Church has frowned upon these practices, it’s an annual tradition that brings in thousands of tourists.

MEXICO

Easter celebrations in Mexico vary by region over a span of two weeks: the week leading up to Easter and the week following it. In very devout regions like Taxco, there are physical reenactments of Holy Week, according to Journey Mexico, a local travel company. Another Mexican tradition is the Burning of the Judases in which people make giant Papier-mâché Judases and blow them up with fireworks. On the other hand, The Culture Trip reported that some regions prefer more low-key celebrations, like a silent procession through town or visiting 12 churches in 12 days.

AUSTRALIA

In 1991, Rabbit-Free Australia launched a campaign to replace the Easter bunny with the Easter bilby, or rabbit-eared bandicoot. Why the switch? In Australia, rabbits are widely considered pests for destroying crops and land. Companies now make chocolate bilbies for Easter, according to The Huffington Post, with proceeds benefiting the endangered animals.

FLORENCE, ITALY
 

In Florence, locals celebrate a 350-year-old Easter tradition known as Scoppio del Carro, or “explosion of the cart.” An ornate cart packed with fireworks is led through the streets of the city by people in colorful 15th century costumes before stopping outside the Duomo. The Archbishop of Florence then lights a fuse during Easter mass that leads outside to the cart and sparks a lively fireworks display. The meaning behind the custom dates back to the First Crusade, according to Visit Florence, and is meant to ensure a good harvest.

Italy

Children in this Scandinavian country dress up like witches and go begging for chocolate eggs in the streets with made-up faces and scarves around their heads, carrying bunches of willow twigs decorated with feathers. In some parts of Western Finland, people burn bonfires on Easter Sunday, a Nordic tradition stemming from the belief that the flames ward off witches who fly around on brooms between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

POLAND

Pouring water on one another is a Polish Easter tradition called Śmigus-dyngus, a.k.a. Wet Monday, according to Culture.pl, a cultural institution promoting Polish culture worldwide. On Easter Monday, people try to drench each other with buckets of water, squirt guns, or anything they can get their hands on. Legend says girls who get soaked on Wet Monday will marry within the year, The Culture Trip reported.

HAUX, FRANCE
 

Don’t forget a fork if you’re in this southern French town on Easter Monday. Each year a giant omelet is served up in the town’s main square, according to Atlas Obscura. And when we say giant, we mean giant: The omelet uses more than 15,000 eggs and feeds up to 1,000 people. The story goes, when Napoleon and his army were traveling through the south of France, they stopped in a small town and ate omelets, the publication reported. Napoleon liked his so much that he ordered the townspeople to gather their eggs and make a giant omelet for his army the next day.

 
Corfu

On the morning of Holy Saturday, the traditional “pot throwing” takes place on the Greek island of Corfu, Reuters reported. People throw pots, pans, and other earthenware often filled with water out of their windows, smashing them on the street. Some say the custom derives from the Venetians, who on New Year’s Day used to throw out all of their old items, the publication noted. Others believe the throwing of the pots welcomes spring, symbolizing the new crops that will be gathered in the new pots.

NORWAY
 

According to Visit Norway, Easter in the country is a popular time to read crime novels and ski. The tradition is said to have started in 1923 when a book publisher promoted its new crime novel on the front pages of newspapers. The ads resembled news so much that people didn’t know it was a publicity stunt, so it received massive attention. And so the tradition was born.

VATICAN CITY

 On Good Friday, the Pope commemorates the Way of the Cross, beginning at the Colosseum, BBC reported. People attending the procession hold candles and make their way around the amphitheater and up to Palatine Hill, stopping 14 times along the way to represent the 15 Stations of the Cross. Mass is celebrated on the evening of Holy Saturday, and on Easter Sunday, thousands of visitors congregate in St. Peter’s Square to await the Pope’s blessing from the church’s balcony, known as “Urbi et Orbi” (“To the City and to the World”).
 
Verges, Spain

On Holy Thursday in the Medieval town of Verges, Spain, the traditional “dansa de la mort” or “death dance” is performed, according to the official website of Costa Brava, Span’s coastal region where Verges is located. To reenact scenes from the Passion, everyone dresses in skeleton costumes and parades through the streets. The procession ends with frightening skeletons carrying boxes of ashes. The macabre dance begins at midnight and continues for three hours into the early morning.

WASHINGTON DC

For over 130 years, the White House has hosted the Easter Egg Roll on its South Lawn. The main activity involves rolling a colored hard-boiled egg with a large serving spoon, but now the event boasts many more amusements, like musical groups, an egg hunt, sports, and crafts.

HUNGARY

“Sprinkling,” a popular Hungarian Easter tradition, according to Hungary-based website ItsHungarian, is observed on Easter Monday, which is also known as “Ducking Monday.” Boys playfully sprinkle perfume or perfumed water on girls after getting their permission to do so. Young men used to pour buckets of water over young women’s heads, but now they spray perfume, cologne or just plain water, and ask for a kiss. People used to believe that water had a cleaning, healing, and fertility-inducing effect.

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL

Taking place in the city where it is believed Jesus was crucified, Christians celebrate Good Friday by walking the same path Jesus did on the day he was nailed to the cross, according to Tourist Israel, a tourism company. Taking note of his pain that fateful day, some of those who participate carry a cross with them in remembrance. On Easter Sunday, many pilgrims attend a church service at Garden Tomb — the area it is believed Jesus was buried.

PRIZZI, SICILY
 

In Prizzi, Sicily, “the Abballu de daivuli is a representation of devils from locals wearing terrifying masks of zinc and dressed in red robes,” according to The Telegraph. Those dressed in costume pester as many “souls” as they can (which really means making them pay for drinks) before the afternoon when the Virgin Mary and the risen Christ save the day by sending the devils away with angels.

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