From reading crime books to dressing as witches: how we celebrate Easter around the world
As Christians gather to commemorate the resurrection of Christ, different cultures, religions and communities around the globe have their own traditions for celebrating the Easter holidays, some more unusual than others.
For many of us in Australia, Easter is a well-deserved four-day break, where we pack up the kids and go on a family camping trip, or head off with our partner or friends on a mini-getaway. Elsewhere, there’s no wiggly-nosed bunnies in sight, no Easter egg hunts as we know them, or supermarkets overflowing with chocolate: this time of year is honoured a little differently. Here are some of the more interesting ways Easter is celebrated around the world:
From “Holy Thursday” to Easter Monday, you’ll find Norwegians obsessively reading mystery and crime fiction in honour of an event known as Paaskekrim a.k.a. “Easter Crime”. During this time, bookstores are overflowing with genre titles, and the media saturates its broadcasts with detective stories, which are eagerly lapped up by the public.
Like many things holiday-related, marketing is key to how Paaskekrim supposedly started. As the story goes, it began in the early 1920s when newspapers began publishing “fake news” stories about unsolved crime as a publicity stunt.
Some readers failed to grasp the jokes and the controversy spiked the interest of publishing houses. With cinemas and restaurants closed during Easter, reading complimented the introspection of the holiday period and provided some well-needed entertainment.
The Greeks know how to have a smashing time for Easter - literally. On Easter Saturday, residents of Corfu (a medieval island in the Ionian Sea north-west of Greece) throw terracotta pots and pans out their windows, smashing them onto the streets below.
It all starts after morning mass. A bell chimes - the signal that pot-smashing can begin - and it’s on for young and old, the streets a cacophony of shattering pottery. Just make sure to look up if you happen to be walking the streets of Corfu during this time!
There are a few theories as to how the custom developed. Some say it’s a symbolic rejection of evil spirits, others say it’s about rebirth and renewal, or perhaps it was adopted from the Venetians, who throw old things out their windows on New Year’s Day, hoping to get replacements for the new year.
In Bermuda, locals spend Good Friday going to church and eating traditional savoury codfish cakes (cakes are served solo or inside western-style hot cross buns).
Entertainment is in the form of colourful and elaborate kite-flying at picturesque Horseshoe Bay. It’s a fun but serious business, with fierce competition that’s more mischievous than mean-spirited. There’s a lot of staged drama and “fights” (the kind you’d see at a Wrestlemania match). One tactic is to attach razor blades to the tail of a kite so it can cut the strings of any nearby kites!
It’s said a Sunday School teacher from the British Army started the custom back in the 19th century. Unable to adequately explain Christ’s ascension to heaven, he took the class outside and used a kite as an example.
No matter what the weather report says, you’re guaranteed to get a drenching in Poland on Easter Monday for Śmigus-dyngus a.k.a. “Wet Monday”. This event has locals hitting the streets to battle it out, with water the weapon of choice.
Traditionally, young polish men sprinkled unmarried women with holy water as a sign of romantic interest, but now both boys and girls are the instigators of this massive water fight and it’s buckets rather than sprinkles for all and anybody who may pass by.
Easter in Sweden is a fairly secular custom. In Blåkulla Island, off the east coast of Sweden in the Baltic Sea, it looks more like something you’d see during another popular holiday: Halloween.
According to Swedish folklore, Blåkulla is a mystical place, where witches celebrate their own Sabbath and get up to no good. During this time, children dress up as “Easter hags” called påskkärringa. Carrying broomsticks, the children head door-to-door, trading items they’ve made in exchange for sweets.
This year in Australia, Easter takes place from 30 March (Good Friday) until 2 April (Easter Monday).