From eggs to whips: Easter celebrations all over the world

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Easter is a religious celebration commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Today, it is considered a secular holiday too. It is celebrated much like Thanksgiving. Families gather for a feast and enjoy many activities. You’ll also see bunnies, decorated eggs, and candy. These symbols represent spring rather than anything religious. Families hold Easter egg hunts where kids search for hidden eggs (nowadays, people use plastic eggs to hold treats inside to avoid salmonella poisoning). Kids paint and decorate Easter eggs which they place in baskets. Some exchange bunny or egg-shaped candy, or other small gifts. Good Friday and/or Easter Monday are celebrated as holidays.

Why eggs?

What’s with eggs and Easter? It turns out that in many cultures, eggs have a traditional as well as Christian meaning. It has been a symbol of new life since ancient times. It’s also associated with pagan festivals celebrating spring. In the religious sense, eggs symbolize Jesus’ emergence from the tomb and resurrection. Meanwhile, the custom of painting eggs may have evolved from an earlier practice of decorating them during Lent when Christians were forbidden to eat eggs (Easter symbols and traditions,

Eggs continue to be a part of Easter traditions not only in Canada but all over the world. In Germany, multi-colored eggs are displayed on trees and on the streets. Meanwhile, Ukrainians prepare an Easter basket containing food and the krashenky (plain, coloured hard-boiled eggs) which are eaten first, and the pysanky (beautifully decorated eggs dipped in hot wax) which are given off as gifts. In Bulgaria, they have egg-fights, and in the US, the traditional Easter Egg Roll is held in the White House. In France, in the town of Haux and Bessières, they make a giant omelette made out of 4,500 eggs. It feeds up to 1,000 people in the town’s main square.

While activities involving eggs are quite common during Easter, other countries celebrate the occasion very differently:

Whips and water for fertility

If you are a girl in the Czech Republic, prepare yourself for a “beating” on Easter Monday. The tradition is for males to tap girls with braided whips made of willow. Don’t worry, it is done all in good fun. They are playfully whipped only around the legs. The practice wishes ladies good health and fertility throughout the year.

In Hungary, girls are not whipped on Easter Monday but sprinkled with water, perfume or cologne over their heads. The boys then ask for a kiss. They believe that this practice bestows fertility and symbolizes healing.

Penitents, Passion plays and processions

Religious traditions are still being practiced in countries like the Philippines, Spain, and Italy. Filipino Catholics practice fasting and abstinence during Lent and perform other acts of religious penance during Holy Week (the week leading to Easter Sunday). This can include activities like visiting seven churches on Good Friday, singing the Pasyon (verse narrative on the life and suffering of Jesus Christ), watching plays on Jesus’ life, and joining religious processions (parades). On Easter Sunday, a feast is shared by families after mass.

Similarly, in Spain, hundreds of processions are held on the streets featuring religious statues. In Seville, masked penitents arrange lavish floats that make up the most spectacular parades. Meanwhile, in Rome, the Pope leads various ceremonies commemorating Jesus’ life. These include the Washing of the feet of a dozen men (representing Jesus’ apostles) and the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday. Thousands of Christians attend the mass on Easter Sunday at St. Peter’s Square.

Weird but wonderful

In Corfu, Greece, traditional “pot throwing” is done on the morning of Holy Saturday. People throw earthenware such as pots and pans out of their window, smashing them on the streets. This is part of the re-enactment of the earthquake that followed Christ’s resurrection. In other parts of Greece and several Latin American countries, the “Burning of Judas” is a public spectacle. An effigy representing the apostle who betrayed Jesus is strung and burned (or exploded using fireworks). In recent times, the effigies are made to resemble controversial politicians or businessmen that people don’t like.

Meanwhile, “Easter witches” come out in the streets in Sweden. Children paint their cheeks red and wear long skirts and colourful head scarves. Then they go around the neighbourhood exchanging drawings for sweets. This may sound similar to Halloween, but the practice comes from an old belief in Sweden that witches fly to the mountains to cavort with Satan on Holy Thursday. Traditionally, Swedes would light up bonfires and fireworks on the succeeding days until Easter Sunday to scare the witches away when they fly back.

How will you celebrate Easter this year?
Article updated March 18, 2024.
Sources: Easter in Canada, Laura Neilson Bonikowsky, The Canadian Encyclopedia; 13 unique ways Easter is celebrated around the world, Craig, YTravel Blog; How Easter is celebrated around the world, Nick Squires, The Telegraph; Ukrainian Easter traditions are deeply rooted in the past, Cheryl Girard, Winnipeg Free Press; Easter customs in Corfu, Visit; Top 10 things you didn’t know about Easter, Time Magazine. All retrieved on March 30, 2017. Article updated April 8, 2020.

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