Unique Easter Traditions From Around the World

Words: Robyn Samuels

It’s that time of year again, where kids gather for egg hunts and beg for more chocolate than their tummies can bear, while adults look forward to having turmeric-stained plates from eating pickled fish for days on end. Yes, we’re talking about Easter. Although Easter celebrations usually involve indulging in chocolate and hot cross buns, celebrations are not the same globally. Each country has unique Easter traditions, whether it’s reenacting The Passion of Christ or dressing up as witches…

Explore different Easter traditions from around the world.

Greece – Roast Lamb on Spits

Being one of the most significant religious holidays, Grecians take Easter rather seriously. The day before Good Friday is recognised as ‘Holy Thursday’, during which eggs are dyed red to represent the blood of Christ. On Good Friday, a procession is held, where a replica of Christ’s tomb is carried through the streets. Families come together on Easter Sunday to enjoy a succulent roast lamb cooked on a spit; they also crack the red-dyed eggs, symbolising the opening of Christ’s tomb – as we said, the holiday is taken very seriously.


Spain – Reenacting Passion of the Christ

Most schools and congregations host low-budget Easter productions for communities, but the Spanish take this to the next level by reenacting Mel Gibson’s Hollywood drama, The Passion of the Christ. Catholicism is widely practised in Spain, so Easter is a significant holiday in this country, especially in the Seville region. Locals dress in traditional garb and carry floats, while depicting scenes from The Passion of Christ. Hornazo, a Spanish Easter bread stuffed with chorizo, egg and pork loin, is enjoyed by locals during this special time.


Poland – Water Gun Fight

Poland is also a predominantly Catholic county; Easter traditions include unique festivities. People often carry baskets containing items like bread, salt, meat, eggs and cake to church to be anointed by a priest. Another Polish Easter tradition is ‘Smigus Dyngus’ or ‘Dingus Day’, which literally translates to ‘wet Monday’, where people sprinkle or pour water over one another in honour of the baptism of Christ – but using buckets and water guns instead of water from the Jordan River.

The popular tradition supposedly originates from the baptism of Polish prince, Mieszko I, in 966 AD, where water was sprinkled on new converts. Today, Dingus Day is a fun way of celebrating Easter and is often followed by singing, dancing and feasting on bundt cakes and eggs with salmon roe or caviar, among other delicious treats.

Try this recipe for Polish Easter Mazurek Tart.


Bermuda – Kite Flying

On the British Island of Bermuda, people visit the pink, sandy shores of Horseshoe Bay Beach for an annual kite-flying festival on Good Friday. Beautifully decorated kites with wooden crosses take to the sky, symbolising Christ’s ascension into heaven – sounds like a fun church field trip! It’s also customary to eat hot cross buns and savoury codfish cakes.


Sweden – Dress up as Witches

Pickled herring is one of the traditional foods enjoyed by the Swedes at Easter; eggs and potatoes are usually on the menu as well. While herring might make you raise an eyebrow, the Easter tradition of ‘paskkarring’ is probably more questionable. Similar to the Welsh pastime, this event involves people dressing up as witches and asking for candy.

Paskkarring translates to ‘Easter witches’; the pagan practice dates to the 17th century and stems from the belief that witches would fly to a mountain in Germany right before Easter Friday, where they supposedly danced with the devil. To ward off the evil witches, Swedes started bonfires and disguised themselves as witches to scare them away. Today, the tradition has less ghoulish associations and has become a fun activity for children; instead of wearing black cloaks, they wear colourful garments and paint their faces.


Ethiopia – Marathon Fast

semolina pancakes

During Easter, many Abrahamic faiths fast or partake in lent by sacrificing food, often imitating Jesus’ example of fasting for 40 days in the wilderness. In Ethiopia, people add an extra fifteen days, with a 55-day marathon fast known as ‘Fasika’. People only break their fast after the sunrise church service on Easter; the feast usually includes injera (a sour fermented pancake, traditionally made with teff flour) and doro wat (a spicy chicken stew).


Canada – Eggstravaganza

One of the great joys of Easter is egg hunting. While this is a pastime for many nationalities, Canadians really put on a show with a festival called ‘Easter Eggstravaganza’. The day event happens in Montreal, and is famous for its epic egg hunts, face painting and other family-friendly activities. Toutons are also a beloved Easter treat in Canada, this traditional breakfast dish is made of fried dough (similar to vetkoek) and served with molasses. Though we are partial to vetkoek with jam, we have to admit that does sound delicious!


Wales – Money & Candy

While churchgoers give tithes and pass collection baskets down church aisles, Welsh children go from door to door, sing carols and receive money or candy on Easter. This Christmas and Halloween mash-up is known as ‘Calennig’ and is celebrated on Easter Monday. Another popular Welsh Easter tradition involves ringing bells, this is done on Easter morning to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. That’s one way to wake up!


South Africa – Pickled Fish & Braai

How-To-Make-Pickled-Fish-1x5

South Africa is a country of diverse cultures and religions, and for those who observe Easter, it’s a major religious holiday. Most denominations host mass services to commemorate the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Easter also serves as a time for family gatherings; people travel from different provinces to spend the long weekend with family.

Easter traditional foods include hot cross buns, lamb, Beacon marshmallow-filled or white Easter eggs and rabbit-shaped chocolate. But the most loved Easter food is arguably pickled fish; hake fillets, yellow tail or snoek is pickled with onions, bay leaves, turmeric and other spices. Pickled fish is preserved with vinegar and sugar; the sweet and sour dish is often served with hot cross buns. ‘Braai‘ probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when thinking ‘Easter’, but many locals take the long weekend opportunity to gather around the fire with loved ones.

Need recipe inspiration for Easter? Plan your feast with our Easter recipe round-up.

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