Have you ever microwaved a peep just to watch it expand and then explode? Easter egg hunts, Cadbury eggs, and taking photos of terrified children on the Easter Bunny’s lap are all exceptionally American Easter traditions. But have you ever wondered where all of these traditions originated?
The term “Easter” seems to have come from the Teutonic goddess of springtime Eostre, who considered rabbits sacred. Rabbits were a symbol of fertility, and therefore the laying of eggs were associated with rebirth and the emergence of Spring. Later, the eggs became a symbol for the resurrection of Jesus. To this day, children enjoy the hunt for colorful eggs, sometimes filled with candy (or if you were a lucky kid, money). These are fine and good, but to be honest, the Easter Bunny terrifies us. Due to our love for travel, cultural exploration, and a little adventure, we were curious how people celebrate Easter around the world. So we did a deep-dive into Google, and this is what we found! Oh, and please enjoy the collection of nightmare-inducing Easter bunny pictures I've collected, below. The first picture is actually of my cousins! (They look remarkably happy to be hanging out with such a beastly bunny).
Children in Scandinavian countries dress up like witches at Easter, and exchange drawings for candy. This is true! I confirmed it with a friend of mine who grew up in Sweden and now lives in the US and works at Reddit. He's in the first image below, circa 1990, dressed as a “little Easter man” with a family friend.
Missing the pure adrenaline rush of the Ice Bucket Challenge? If you’re a woman visiting the Czech Republic or Slovakia around Easter time, you can expect to be drenched in ice cold water and then whipped by decorated branches of willow. This is evidently in an effort to transfer the willow tree’s vitality and fertility to young women (since the willow is the first tree to bloom in the Spring).
In Cyprus, children paint and hide Easter eggs much like they do in the US. However, if you’re a teenager, you participate in the long held tradition of collecting scraps of wood to create a massive bonfire. The town with the biggest bonfire gets bragging rights for the rest of the year. In an attempt to discourage these kinds of delinquencies, authorities encourage neighborhoods to hide their scrap wood and bins that could potentially be used to carry it around. Sounds like a pyro’s dream to me!
In Polish tradition, butter lambs are often the centerpiece of the Easter table. That’s right-- lambs made entirely of butter, often molded by hand, decorated with a little red bow. They are also sold in the supermarket and at delis around Easter time. To me, this looks like one of those Pinterest ideas that inevitably falls flat.
Perhaps the most disturbing tradition I learned about was the "dansa de la mort" or "death dance" that is performed in Verges, Spain late in the evening following a customary Passion Play. Typically, 5 agile dancers dressed in skeleton costumes take to the streets, performing a macabre dance to a chilling drum-beat. The dance is supposed to symbolize the final judgement of where the soul goes after death: heaven, purgatory, or hell.
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