Painting and distributing of Easter eggs lathered in chocolate to family and friends is typical Easter tradition. Though Easter is a religious holiday, many countries celebrate it with unique norms rooted in history, tradition and fun. This year however, given the ongoing unprecedented atmosphere, fun and frolicking in open streets is on hold. We can, however, still revel in celebrations past, and look forward to brighter ones next year.
Scoppio del Carro or the Explosion of the Cart is arguably Florence’s most famous Easter ritual. At 10 a.m. every year on the eve of this day, a brindellone—a colourful cart filed with fireworks—is paraded through downtown Florence with drummers and figures dressed in historical costumes in tow. People gather in front of Santa Maria del Fiore at Piazza del Duomo which is the final destination of the cart. A dove-shaped rocket called the colombina is lit and aimed at the cart, causing it to explode and celebrations ensue with great pomp.
Easter and crime are not commonly associated together. However, a unique Norwegian tradition of Paaskekrimmen or Easter Thrillers is hugely popular across the country. The tradition dates back to 1923 when a front page advertisement in Aftenposten, a newspaper was used to promote a new crime novel. The ad’s resemblance to regular news made it difficult for people to distinguish it from a publicity stunt. The book became a big hit, a custom during the holidays.
Easter is believed to have originated in the holy city of Jerusalem. On Good Friday, Christians (some carrying their own crosses) march Jesus took on the day he was crucified. They also attend mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre—supposedly the burial site of Christ, and gather for an Easter sunrise service at the Garden Tomb.
Cooking up a storm is taken quite seriously at Bessières in southwestern France. Every Easter Monday, about a thousand people don chef’s whites and toques, gathering at the main town square to make a giant omelette using 4,500 eggs that is ready just in time for lunch. The tradition is believed to date back to the 17th century when Napoleon Bonaparte and his army men stopped by the tiny city and indulged in the egg preparation. mmediately took to the taste and ordered the folks to gather their eggs and prepare a mammoth omelette for the troop.
Orthodox Easter celebrations on the Greek island of Corfu is literally a smash. The custom—referred to as botides—calls for large clay jugs filled with water to be thrown from the balconies of homes in the centre of town on Holy Saturday noon. The sight of the jug-shards crashing onto the streets below attracts thousands of gatherers to watch the custom unfold. Although the origin is unclear, Islanders believe the custom helps ward off bad spirits, and spectators take home souvenirs of broken pot pieces as good luck charms.
Easter in Finland is an adorable sight. Wrapped in colourful clothes and scarves, children dress up as witches on Palm Sunday (Eastern Finland) and Holy Saturday (Western Finland). They go knocking from door to door, casting spells of good fortune on the residents and exchanging decorative willow twigs for treats such as Easter eggs, chocolates or coins. The tradition derives from the time when evil spirits and witches were thought to wander around the streets doing mischief before Easter. Bonfires are lit to drive away evil spirits on the evening of Easter Saturday in many western Finnish villages, while the whole country enjoys a four-day weekend.
Every year on Maundy Thursday preceding Easter, the Spanish town of Verges in Catalunya enchants with a procession of Dansa de la Mort or the Dance of Death. It is probably the last dance of its kind in Europe, performed since the Middle Ages. The display is a theatrical representation of the life and crucifixion of Jesus Christ and features five dancers who dance in black-and-white skeleton costumes to the beat of drums around the crowds.
Pooja Naik is Senior Sub-Editor at National Geographic Traveller India. She likes to take long leisurely walks with both hands in her pocket; channeling her inner Gil Pender at Marine Drive since Paris is a continent away.