A traditional Easter weekend in the UK means chocolate eggs, hot cross buns, egg hunts and the odd slice of simnel cake but celebrations in the rest of the world are very different.
From hurling buckets of water at women to horse riding through the snow and reading crime novels, we take a look at ten of the most fascinating Easter traditions taking place across the globe.
1. Smashing pottery in Corfu, Greece
If you’re enjoying the Greek sunshine over the Easter break, there’s plenty more for you to enjoy: In addition to lamb, Corfu is famous for the Greek art of smashing pottery. Watch your head if you happen to be wandering through the streets on Easter Saturday as at the strike of 11am, locals energetically hurl all kinds of pottery from their windows.
This tradition is believed to be derived from the Venetian New Year’s Day when people throw their old possessions out of the window in the hope of receiving new ones during the year to come.
2. Passion plays in Oberammergau, Bavaria, Germany
This small village is famous for two things, its ‘Passion Play’ which depicts Jesus Christ’s trial and death, and its wood carvings. Villagers stage the unique Easter show to thank God for sparing them from the plague in 1633, an epidemic that threatened to wipe out the entire village.
Germany as a whole also celebrates Easter by decorating trees with intricately painted eggs, a tradition known as Ostereierbaum.
3. Mass in the Vatican City, Italy
Easter is a religious affair in Italy, and with the Vatican being the seat of the Roman Catholic Church, Catholics are unlikely to be disappointed with the happenings here at Easter. On Good Friday, crowds in St. Peter’s Square gather to watch medieval-themed performances along with a reconstruction of the Nativity and a re-enactment of Jesus’ life up to and including his crucifixion.
On Easter Sunday, the Pope delivers Mass from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica which is widely considered to be a fantastic experience. Free tickets are limited so it’s important to apply at least two months in advance.
4. Biblical re-enactments in Indonesia
Since the arrival of Dutch and Portuguese missionaries, the Indonesian islands have celebrated Easter with re-enactments of the crucifixion. You can expect an incredible spectacle of young men tied to wooden crosses in public places across the country, while statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary are paraded through the streets on floats.
5. Kite flying in Bermuda
On Good Friday, residents across the island of Bermuda fill the skies with home-made kites. This tradition apparently began when a British school teacher working in Bermuda hand made a kite in order to signify Christ’s ascension to Heaven.
The islanders enjoy tucking into hot cross buns just like we do, but to add an island twist they also munch on their own traditional codfish cakes too.
6. Semana Santa processions in Seville, Spain
Seville’s Easter processions are famous for being some of the most impressive in the world. A multitude of lavish floats, decorated with candles and brightly painted religious statues, glide through the streets, accompanied by marching bands and crowds of worshippers.
Perhaps the strangest marchers in the procession are the masked penitents (nazarenos) who walk solemnly along dressed in habits, long robes and tall, pointed hats.
7. Bonfires in Fredericksburg, Texas, USA
Originally inhabited by Germans, this small ex-cowboy town comes alight each Easter with bonfires the night before Easter Sunday. The fires commemorate a peace treaty with the Comanche Indians, signed in 1847. Children are told that the fires are made by the Easter Bunny who uses them to dye the Easter eggs.
8. Planting grass in Finland
Finland’s tradition is perhaps the most understated and curious: they celebrate spring at Easter by having the children plant grass in trays inside the house. As the shoots begin breaking through, they scatter Easter eggs among the stems.
9. Water fights in Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and the Czech Republic
In several eastern European countries, Easter Monday is also known as ‘Ducking Monday’ or ‘Wet Monday’. Men throw buckets of cold water over the women who are often dressed in traditional costumes. This is done to ensure they don’t ‘wither’ like neglected flowers!
10. Crime fiction in Norway
Forget about chocolate, buns and bunnies. In Norway the Påskekrim tradition is young but intriguing. Around Easter time, there is a rush of new crime and detective publications and the TV is full of Agatha Christies-style ‘whodunnits’ – even the milk cartons have been known to feature mini murder mysteries.
The idea of ‘Easter-thrillers’ was inspired by a late 18th century novel about a train robbery which was advertised on the front page of a national newspaper, fooling many Norwegians into thinking it was a headline. The novel quickly became the most popular Easter book in Norwegian history.