Within families and cultures there are often long held traditions and kooky rituals that all who are involved will look forward to with an air of excitement and anticipation in the lead up to Easter. Whether it be a long walk in the country as a family after a great lamb roast and plenty of chocolate eggs, or a religious ceremony with church or family, it’s a time to relax and unwind and enjoy each other’s company. Around the world this concept is mirrored and we thought we’d share with you some of the more weird and wonderful traditions that happen over Easter globally!
Bermuda, kite Flying. All over Bermuda children (and adults!!) send multicoloured kites soaring into the tropical blue skies of the island, in order to represent Christ rising from the grave and ascending into heaven! These kites are taken very seriously and preparations for good Friday happen weeks in advance, there is even an award ceremony for the best-made kites on the day, in a range of different categories, e.g. Longest Tail or Most Innovative Design. Legend has it that this tradition began with a school teacher wanting to demonstrate Christ’s ascension into heaven and so made a kite in the shape and design of Jesus himself!
Florence, Italy, fireworks ablaze. In this beautiful city everything goes wild! With a Rube Goldberg machine to light a candle, supposedly the candle is lit with shards of flint from Christ’s assumed burial place, the Holy Sepulchre, as a match. The candle is then wheeled around the city on a huge thirty-foot tall cart that has been used for this purpose for over 300 years! Once at it’s destination the fire is taken by officials to the Cathedral square and the cart is heaped with fireworks. Once all in place a fake dove is suspended in the Cathedral with a fuse tied to it that runs out to the fireworks. The dove is set alight by the Cardinal of Florence and the bells chime to tell the people of Florence that the fireworks are about to kick off. The next 20 minutes are filled with the most spectacular firework display, and if the display was a success that marks out good harvests and successful business for the Florence residents.
Indonesia, reenacting the Passion. Dutch and Portuguese missionaries brought Christianity to the islands of Indonesia in the sixteenth century. From that time on Easter has been celebrated by reenacting the crucifixion and the few hours before the actual death. Local young men are tied to life sized crosses throughout the islands of Indonesia and they parade statues of Jesus and Mary down the streets. It is considered a great honour to be asked to play Jesus in the reenactment and many men desire to take the part. In the province of Central Kalimantan you will find Christian families gathered together at the grave side of loved ones through the night of Holy Saturday, staying there to light candles and arrange flowers until dawn. At dawn the church then provides a tent for the celebrations to continue.
Finland, watching grass growing. As crazy as it sounds the Finnish have an Easter tradition for watching grass grow to signify the start of Spring. Families will plant a mini bed of grass in a low dish and watch it grow in the weeks leading up to Easter. Then once the big day is imminent the children will decorate it with painted eggs and paper bunnies. This represents fertility and new life during the time of Easter.
Norway, murder mysteries. In Norway the tradition is to enjoy a murder mystery together as a family and try and figure out who the killer is as a team. Television companies in Norway alter their schedule in order to ensure that it is only murder mysteries that they broadcast over the Easter period! Publishing companies will pause releasing a new thriller novel until Easter time just to make sure they coincide with the frenzy of Easter Murder time! Even the milk companies get into the theme and print mini murder mysteries onto cartons in the week leading up to Easter so that they can be enjoyed over a breakfast with the family! To mark the week of Easter as sacred the Norwegians also shut down all shops, banks, businesses and schools for the week leading up to Easter. The only day the grocery shop is open will be the Saturday before Easter Sunday!
France, flying bells: The French hold a special day called ‘Silent Saturday’. On the days leading up to Easter, many of the churches throughout the country will cease to ring their bells as a sign of remembrance of the death of Jesus. The children are given the explanation that the bells have stopped ringing because they have flown out of their towers and travelled all the way to Rome to see the Pope (winged bells!!). And it is as the bells return to France that they drop coloured eggs and bundles of sweets for all of the children to enjoy.
Poland, a butter lamb. In Poland part of the Easter spread the Polish lay on for lunch includes a moulded butter sculpture in the shape of a lamb. This lamb can either be crafted using a mould or by hand, and it is considered one of the centre pieces to the table. It represents the Lamb of God watching over the meal, its eyes are usually marked out by peppercorns and it carries a white flag with a red cross (similar to the St George Cross). The lamb together with other traditional parts of the meal are taken in a basket to church to be blessed and sprinkled with holy water.