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How international families are celebrating Easter

Peep dioramas and creepy chocolate bunnies are fun and all, but the really awesome Easter traditions happen across the globe. We swept over five countries to give you a run down of the coolest family Easter customs we could find: some sinister, some delicious, some shocking. Rooted in folklore, these celebratory activities will inspire you to think outside the basket this Easter.

RUSSIA

In Russia, Easter eggs are painted blood red and people crack them open with their fingernails. Some parts of the country also partake of the pussy willow beating tradition à la Ukraine. After these slightly sinister activities, they bake a tall cake called a kulich and frost it with flowers and sprinkles! Often the kulich is carried to the church and blessed by a priest before the family scarfs it. The kulich lasts up to seven days, which is ideal because Russians party for the whole week. Kulich goes great with paskha, a dish made mostly of cheese and formed into the shape of a pyramid. Its white colour symbolizes purity. We reckon eating a pyramid of cheese may have you feeling not so pure afterward, but it’s all about symbolism right?

SWEDEN

Bonfires, witches and fireworks are a big part of Easter in Sweden, which makes celebrations appear more like Halloween. According to Swedish folklore, Easter was a time when witches stole household brooms and flew to Blakulla, or “Blue Mountain,” a fictional mountain said to be in Germany, to hang out with the devil. Kids dress up like witches with kerchiefs, painted on freckles and rosy cheeks and go door to door requesting treats.

GERMANY

Germany is the birthplace of the Easter Bunny. He made his first appearance in a book by George Franck von Frankenau in the 1500s, which made kids believed that if they were good, the “Oschter Haws” would lay a nest of coloured eggs and hide them around their house.  Nowadays, kids still get pumped for the Easter Hare’s visit, but they also get to enjoy a celebratory Ostermarkt (Easter market), an Easter bonfire and Gruendonnerstag (Green Thursday) when the family feasts on green soup made of spinach, leeks, parsley. The green reference isn’t associated with the colour, but with the old German verb “grienen” which means “to bemoan.” It’s to commemorate the Last Supper.

SPAIN

The night parade is the most important part of Easter in Spain, dating back to medieval times when it was organized by brotherhoods. Incense smoke, trumpets and drumming fill the air and floats take to the streets. During the whole of Semana Santa (Holy Week), street processions are organized in most towns each evening. People dressed in ghoulish masks and glamorous robes carry around stuffed saints like scarecrows. The mournful attitude turns to merriment when everyone eats torrijas – slices of bread soaked in milk, sugar and egg, then fried in olive oil.

UKRAINE

The week before Easter families go out and pick an armful of pussy willows, no to display on the mantel with tulips, but to whack each other with. The act of swatting your family and friends with the flowering shoots symbolizes strength to break free from winter. Whack that cold out of your system! As the family engages in pussy willow battle, it’s customary to recite a speech that translates roughly to, “It’s not me hitting you, it’s the willow hitting you. In a week it will be Easter. Soon you will have a red egg.” Huh. Sounds suspiciously like the makings of a sibling squabble to us.

Photos by hollybygollyaaron TD, krhamm,  via Flickr

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