Easter, which will be observed on April 4, 2021, is the oldest and most important Christian festival. Many adults commemorate the holiday, which celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ on the third day after his Crucifixion, with prayers and fasting for 40 days before the event. For children in the US, Easter is largely about fun activities like seeking out candy-filled eggs, meeting the Easter bunny, and participating in spring parades. However, not everyone celebrates this all-important holiday with these traditions.
On the Thursday before Easter, Swedish children dress up as witch-like creatures called påskkärringars and go door-to-door seeking treats in exchange for handmade Easter cards and drawings. The custom is credited to local folklore about witches heading to the magical and evil Blåkulla island, off Sweden’s east coast, on the Thursday before Easter, to plan tricks and returning to the mainland on the holiday. Though it is unclear how the ancient tale led to this fun Easter tradition, Swedish kids are not complaining.
Norwegians celebrate the Easter holiday week, which begins on the Friday before Palm Sunday and ends the Tuesday following Easter Monday, reading novels or watching shows that focus on crime. To keep up with the residents’ appetite for Easter crime, or Paaskekrim, publishers churn out several new thrillers, while television stations populate their daily schedules with crime dramas. Dairy companies also get into the spirit by publishing illustrated crime stories on their milk cartons.
The unusual ritual can be traced back to a 1923 advertisement for a new crime book by Norwegian authors Nordahl Grieg and Nils Lie. Called “Bergen train looted in the night,” it was featured on the local newspaper’s front page a week before Palm Sunday, giving readers the impression that it was a regular news article. The gimmick drove so many people to purchase the novel that publishers began to release several crime thrillers around the holiday. Soon after, television producers joined in, and a fun tradition was born.
In the southern French town of Haux, residents and visitors gather in the town’s main square every Easter Monday to share a massive omelet. Cooked by members of the Giant Omelette Brotherhood of Bessières, it comprises over 15,000 fresh eggs and is big enough to feed as many as 10,000 people. According to the legend, while traveling through the region, Napoléon Bonaparte stopped at the small town for a meal. The French Emperor enjoyed the omelet he ordered so much that he returned the following day and asked the townspeople to gather all their eggs and make one big enough to feed his entire army. In 1973, some enterprising locals decided to recreate the event, and the delicious holiday custom has continued ever since.
Hundreds of visitors from across the country and abroad flock to Corfu, Greece, every Easter to witness an unusual ancient custom called “botides.” Commemorated on Holy Saturday, it entails residents tossing out large clay jugs filled with water from their balconies onto the streets. The fun tradition is believed to have been adopted from the Venetians, who throw out dishware every New Year’s Eve to indicate they are ready for a fresh start.
Poland and Ukraine
Every year on Easter Monday, residents of Poland and Ukraine take to the streets for a friendly water fight. Called Śmigus-dyngus, or Wet Monday, the tradition can be traced back to Polish prince Mieszko I’s baptism in 966 AD. The fun water battle is followed by parades and parties, with celebrations often extending into the early hours of the following morning. Not surprisingly, the “refreshing” custom has been adopted by countries and cities worldwide, including Buffalo, New York, which boasts a big Polish-American community.