Monday, 25 March 2013

European Easter Traditions

With Easter approaching it's a good time to take a look at some of the interesting and unique Easter traditions that will be practiced across Europe this coming weekend. Whilst we all know that copious amounts of chocolate will be consumed on Sunday - what else is on the agenda? Read on and find out!

Estonia - Eggs, Spring and life are the universal symbols of Easter throughout the world and like most nations, Estonians love to paint eggs! Natural food dyes are very popular - brown onion skins, beetroot juice, spinach or flowers are used to colour eggs before designs are applied.

The 'knocking of eggs' is a popular Estonian tradition during the festive season. Here friends and family are invited to take part in a competition and whoever cracks the opponents egg first without cracking their own is declared the winner!

France - Church bells are silent in France for several days leading up to Easter. Children are told that the bells have gone to Rome to fetch their eggs and when they hear the bell ringing on Easter Sunday they know the eggs have arrived! This creates much excitement and joy for the little ones. One of the games children play in France is tossing an egg up into the air and the first one to land on the ground is the loser.

Germany -  The most beautiful Easter eggs in Germany can be found in the small Sorbian village of Schleife. These colourful eggs can be purchased at the annual Easter markets held in mid March.

In Germany they also have the "Easter Fire" tradition of burning old Christmas trees marking the end of winter and coming of spring.

Poland -  Etching painted eggs is popular in Poland as is the Easter Monday custom of  "Smingus-Dyngus". This usually begin innocently by sprinkling young ladies with a bit of perfumed water then develops into water a fight - it's lots of fun!

Ukraine - People in the Ukraine produce some of the most beautiful Easter eggs in the world by the technique known as "pysanky". This involves creating designs using a special instrument called a "kistka" or "stylus" with melted bees wax.

Greece - It is a common practice to have an outdoor banquet in Greece on Easter Sunday. Popular items on the menu are lamb, eggs, salad and Easter cakes spread on long tables for everyone to enjoy.

Ireland -  No meat is eaten in Ireland on Good Friday, everyone eats fish.

Italy - Pretzels were originally an Easter food in Italy. The twisted shape represented two arms in prayer.

United Kingdon - Hot cross buns are eaten exclusively at Easter. (And in Australia!)

Sweden - It is not the Easter bunny who brings eggs to children in Sweden, rather the "Easter Hare".

Russia - Pussy willow branches are picked in Russia for Easter. People use them to tap each other on the shoulder to wish good luck.

The most expensive Easter eggs of all time are, of course, the Faberge eggs.  They were first created in 1885 when Tzar Alexander III wanted to give his wife a unique gift for Easter. It became a tradition and each year he commissioned a new design for his wife. His son Nicholas II kept up the tradition and did the same for his wife too - how romantic!

This year I will be spending Easter in Prague. It's one of the few places in Europe where anything will be open during the Easter. In the Czech Republic only Easter Monday is a public holiday so it's a good time to visit and perhaps try something new. (I'm going indoor skydiving!)

In the Czech Republic their Easter Monday tradition is to tie colourful ribbons on branches and in the morning boys run around tapping girls with the branches and in the afternoon the girls get the boys back by throwing water on them!