In many ways, celebrating Easter in Europe is the same as it is in many other parts of the world – chocolate eggs, bunnies and church services are certainly not in short supply.
But that’s not to say Europe doesn’t have a few quirky traditions up its sleeve, as these countries demonstrate:
Easter is the holiest time of the year in the Bulgarian Orthodox calendar, but that doesn’t mean it’s all churches and chanting. Once the Easter Saturday services are done and dusted, the egg fights can commence! It’s not as messy as it sounds – eggs aren’t thrown, but rather are hit against one another until only one is left standing. The winning egg will bring you luck until next Easter if you keep it somewhere safe.
England is also an egg-obsessed place. In addition to Easter eggs and the seasonal release of Cadbury’s Creme Eggs (which this year provoked national outrage when the recipe changed), some areas have also managed to maintain a tradition in egg rolling and pace egging. The former is exactly what you’d expect – rolling eggs (either chocolate or hard-boiled) down a hill – while the latter is the performance of traditional village plays in which good conquers evil and men wear towering flowery hats.
Czech Republic and Slovakia
In scenes slightly reminiscent of 50 Shades of Grey, Easter Monday in the Czech Republic and Slovakia is marked by men whipping women. That said, the whips are handmade out of willow rods and ribbons (kinky?), so it probably doesn’t hurt that much – indeed, the traditional whipping is said to bring you health and beauty over the upcoming year. So… there you go. I think I’ll stick with my Cadbury’s Creme Eggs personally.
Forget Christmas trees – they’re so last season. Maybe that’s why Germans celebrate Easter with an Easter egg tree. Just replace baubles with decorated eggs and Bob’s your uncle! One particularly famous Ostereierbaum in Saalfeld is decorated with 10,000 eggs and counting, and attracts hundreds to thousands of visitors every year.
While the Germans are busy re-living Christmas, their northern neighbours are getting trigger-happy for Halloween. At Easter, Finnish children roam the streets dressed as witches and bearing broomsticks. It’s not quite ‘trick or treat’ though – these little witches look more fetching than frightening in multicoloured clothes and drawn-on freckles, and bring decorated willow twigs as blessings in exchange for chocolate eggs.
Breaking with the rest of Europe’s egg-centric traditions, Norway takes a more unusual route: each Easter it develops a serious ‘whodunnit’ obsession. Crime dramas, detective stories and murder mysteries flood the TV listings, bookshops, magazines and even milk cartons – so have your deerstalker and magnifying glass at the ready.
Have you taken part in any of these customs? Or do you know of any other unusual European Easter traditions? Let us know in the comments below.