Religious and secular Easter traditions
Easter eggs are a popular sign of the holiday among its religious and
secular observers alike.
As with many other Christian dates, the celebration of Easter extends
beyond the church. Since its origins, it has been a time of celebration
and feasting and many Traditional Easter games and customs developed,
such as Egg rolling, Egg tapping, Pace egging and Egg decorating. Today
Easter is commercially important, seeing wide sales of greeting cards
and confectionery such as chocolate Easter eggs, marshmallow bunnies,
Peeps, and jelly beans. Even many non-Christians celebrate these aspects
of the holiday while eschewing the religious aspects.
Throughout North America, the British Isles, New Zealand and Australia
the Easter holiday has been partially secularized, so that some families
participate only in the attendant revelry, central to which is
(traditionally) decorating Easter eggs on Saturday evening and hunting
for them Sunday morning, by which time they have been mysteriously
hidden all over the house and garden. Chocolate eggs have largely
supplanted decorated eggs in New Zealand and Australia.
Colored Easter eggs in the United States.
In North America, Australia and New Zealand, parents often tell their
children that eggs and other treats have been delivered and hidden by
the Easter Bunny in an Easter basket which children find waiting for
them when they wake up. Many families in America will attend Sunday Mass
or services in the morning and then participate in a feast or party in
the afternoon; the food cooked for the feast and the customs practiced
at the feast may be influenced by Jewish cuisine and the Jewish holiday
A Bermuda kite.
In the UK children still decorate eggs, but most British people simply
exchange chocolate eggs on the Sunday. Chocolate Easter Bunnies can be
found in shops. Many families have a traditional Sunday roast,
particularly roast lamb, and some eat Easter foods such as Simnel cake,
a fruit cake with eleven marzipan balls representing the eleven faithful
apostles. Hot cross buns, spiced buns with a cross on top, are
traditionally associated with Good Friday, but today are often eaten
well before and after. In Scotland, the north of England, and Northern
Ireland, the traditions of rolling decorated eggs down steep hills and
pace egging are still adhered to.
In Louisiana, USA, egg tapping is known as egg knocking. Marksville,
Louisiana claims to host the oldest egg-knocking competition in the US,
dating back to the 1950s. Competitors pair up on the steps of the
courthouse on Easter Sunday and knock the tips of two eggs together. If
the shell of your egg cracks you have to forfeit it, a process that
continues until just one egg remains.
In the British Overseas Territory of Bermuda, the most notable feature
of the Easter celebration is the flying of kites to symbolize Christ’s
ascent. Traditional Bermuda kites are constructed by Bermudians of
all ages as Easter approaches, and are normally only flown at Easter. In
addition to hot cross buns and Easter eggs, fish cakes are traditionally
eaten in Bermuda at this time.
The Netherlands, Belgium and France
Church bells are silent as a sign of mourning for one or more days
before Easter in The Netherlands, Belgium and France. This has led to an
Easter tradition that says the bells fly out of their steeples to go to
Rome (explaining their silence), and return on Easter morning bringing
both colored eggs and hollow chocolate candy shaped like eggs or
In both The Netherlands and Flemish-speaking Belgium many of the North
American tradition exist alongside the Easter Bell story. The bells («de
Paasklokken») leave for Rome on Holy Saturday, called «Stille Zaterdag»
(literally «Silent Saturday») in Dutch.
In French-speaking Belgium and France the same story of Easter Bells
(« les cloches de Paques ») bringing eggs from Rome is told, but church
bells are silent beginning Maundy Thursday, the first day of the Paschal
In Norway, in addition to staying at mountain cabins and cross-country
skiing in the mountains and painting eggs, a contemporary tradition is
to read or watch murder mysteries at Easter. All the major television
channels run crime and detective stories (such as Agatha Christie’s
Poirot), magazines print stories where the readers can try to figure out
«whodunnit», and new detective novels are scheduled for publishing
before Easter. Even the milk cartons are altered for a couple of weeks.
Each Easter a new short mystery story is printed on their sides. Another
tradition, related to stays in holiday cabins, is playing board games,
dice gamesYahtzee or cards. Stores and businesses close
for five straight days at Easter, with the exception of grocery stores,
which re-open for a single day on the Saturday before Easter Sunday.
In Finland, Sweden and Denmark, traditions include egg painting and
small children dressed as witches collecting candy door-to-door, in
exchange for decorated pussy willows. This is a result of the mixing of
an old Orthodox tradition (blessing houses with willow branches) and the
Scandinavian Easter witch tradition. Brightly
coloured feathers and little decorations are also attached to birch
branches in a vase. For lunch/dinner on Holy Saturday, families
traditionally feast on a smoergasbord of herring, salmon, potatoes, eggs
and other kinds of food. In Finland, the Lutheran majority enjoys maemmi
as another traditional Easter treat, while the Orthodox minority’s
traditions include eating pasha (also spelt paskha) instead.
Netherlands and Northern Germany
In the northern and eastern parts of the Netherlands (Twente and
Achterhoek), Easter Fires (in Dutch: «Paasvuur») are lit on Easter Day
at sunset. Easter Fires also take place on the same day in large
portions of Northern Germany («Osterfeuer»).
Many eastern European ethnic groups, including the Ukrainians,
Belarusians, Hungarians, Bulgarians, Croats, Czechs, Lithuanians, Poles,
Romanians, Serbs, Macedonians, Slovaks, and Slovenes decorate eggs for
In the Czech Republic and Slovakia, a tradition of spanking or whipping
is carried out on Easter Monday. In the morning, men spank women with a
special handmade whip called a pomlazka (in Czech) or korba? (in
Slovak), or, in eastern Moravia and Slovakia, throw cold water on them.
The pomlazka/korba? consists of eight, twelve or even twenty-four
withies (willow rods), is usually from half a meter to two meters long
and decorated with coloured ribbons at the end. The spanking normally is
not painful or intended to cause suffering. A legend says that women
should be spanked in order to keep their health and beauty during whole
An additional purpose can be for men to exhibit their attraction to
women; unvisited women can even feel offended. Traditionally, the
spanked woman gives a coloured egg and sometimes a small amount of money
to the man as a sign of her thanks. In some regions the women can get
revenge in the afternoon or the following day when they can pour a
bucket of cold water on any man. The habit slightly varies across
Slovakia and the Czech Republic. A similar tradition existed in Poland
(where it is called Dyngus Day), but it is now little more than an
all-day water fight.
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???????¤?¤?$???????Y?Vojvodina and other territories with
Hungarian-speaking communities, the day following Easter is called
Locsolo Hetf?, «Watering Monday». Water, perfume or perfumed water is
often sprinkled in exchange for an Easter egg.