Christmas has been and gone, but for many areas of the UK the cold spat is only just really beginning. While greenery and sunshine might seem a million miles away for us Brits in the wintry seasons, have no fear: in just a few months, spring will have thoroughly sprung and there will be chocolate eggs, blue skies, and Easter entertainment to enjoy. In anticipation, we’ve compiled a selection of the best - and bizarre-est! - Easter festivities from all over the globe. Who knows, you might even find some inspiration for a unique way to celebrate this year.
· In the city of Haux in the south west of France, you’ll find the locals putting all their eggs not into one basket, but into one absolutely gigantic dish. Each Easter Monday chefs take over the town square and create an omelette of colossal proportions, capable of feeding up to 1000 people and made from between 4500 and 5000 eggs. Elsewhere across France (and French-speaking Belgium), the story goes that the Easter Bells fly from their steeples to visit Rome during the holiday, returning on the Sunday with chocolate eggs for the French children.
· Chocolate isn’t the only way to overindulge at Easter in Papua New Guinea where some rather peculiar rituals take place. In many parts of the country, Easter Trees stand outside the churches. By the time Easter Sunday comes around, the trees are covered with distinctive decorations: hanging sticks of tobacco and packets of cigarettes. These are even handed out amongst the congregation after the Sunday church service! Afterwards, Papa New Guineans usually return home for a slightly more wholesome activity, and dine on the leftovers from Good Friday’s meal.
· Easter has a Halloween feel in Sweden and Finland. Children often dress up as witches or dirty their faces with soot, carrying broomsticks and coffee pots while they go in hunt of sweets from local houses. In some areas of Finland it is traditional to hold a bonfire on Easter Saturday, as it was once believed that the blaze would ward off any witches or evil spirits who happened to be roaming around and causing trouble.
· At midnight on Holy Saturday, Greece is filled with the sound of celebration: church bells ringing, horns blaring, and fireworks exploding. If you were to visit Corfu that morning, however, all you’d be able to hear is the sound of smashing crockery. At 11am in the city centre, the locals throw clay pots filled with water (known as ‘botides’) from their balconies! This custom came to Corfu from the Venetians, who celebrate the New Year by throwing old pots and other household items out of their windows.
· We’re probably all familiar with Easter traditions celebrated in England (as well as other English-speaking regions of the world) such as the story of the Easter Bunny, the exchange of chocolate eggs, and mass consumption of hot cross buns. UK breaks away from home are a common way to relax during the springtime too. The origins of these customs are less well known. Easter eggs, for example, pre-date Christianity as they have always symbolised new life and are associated with spring. Before chocolate eggs became popular, hard-boiled eggs would be used instead and painted in bright colours and patterns. The Easter Bunny might well descend from the pagan use of the rabbit as a symbol of fertility, but the first mentions of the Easter Bunny come from 16th century German writings, and the first edible bunnies, made from pastry, cropped up in Germany around 200 years ago.
· In Australia, however, the Easter Bunny isn’t such a welcome visitor, as rabbits are actually considered a pest with a reputation for destroying crops. Instead, a campaign was launched in the early 1990s by the Foundation For Rabbit-Free Australia to raise awareness of the problem. The Foundation aim was to have him replaced by the Easter Bilby, the bilby being a small indigenous rodent with soft rabbit-like ears. As a result, bilby-shaped confectionary and chocolate can be bought all over Australia.
Do you have any cherished Easter traditions in your family, or anything special planned for your Easter holidays this year?