Four whole days off, plus an excuse to eat a sickening amount of chocolate eggs. What more could you want, really?
Easter is done differently all across Europe and the mix of old and new traditions makes for some bizarre cultural events. Whips in the Czech Republic? Murder mysteries in Norway? Here are some of the continent’s most interesting ones…
This is a tradition that could be seen as slightly sexist but is probably just incredibly ancient. In the Czech Republic and Slovakia, locals celebrate Easter by braiding lengths of willow into whips. The thin branches are supposed to bring youth, strength and health. It’s usually the boys who weave one of these whips and then go around on Easter Monday giving the girls a cheeky lash of the willow to keep them ‘healthy’. The girls, of course, are then supposed to invite the boys in for a specially decorated Easter egg and some food. Something tells me a man came up with this….
The whole of Norway rallies together at Easter for a nationwide murder mystery fest. As the country virtually shuts down and shops are closed for a five-day bank holiday, TV stations show crime programmes all day, many Norwegians read murder mystery novels and even milk cartons are re-designed to include mini mysteries printed on the side, in a phenomenon called ‘Påskekrimmen’. But why crime at Easter? How did this come about? Well…it’s a mystery, of course!
Fancy a Good Friday boogie? Well, if you live in 13 of the 16 states of Germany you’re flat out of luck. As Good Friday is a day of mourning in the Christian calendar, pubs, clubs and live music venues are mostly shut down on the Friday before Easter Sunday – and those found still operating can receive a fine of up to €1000. Even liberal, multicultural Berlin observes this medieval tradition, with clubs shut from 4am until 9pm on Good Friday.
More pranks played on the girls? Come on guys, cut us some slack! This is another one of those “it’ll make you healthier” traditions. Of course. Dumping girls in bathtubs or tipping entire buckets of water on our heads is a brilliant way to keep us looking youthful and vibrant. Again – once we’re freezing cold and drenched, we’re supposed to hand over the eggs, food and vodka to the boys, who usually soak girls they ‘have a crush on’. Let me tell you, men…the way to my heart is certainly not by being drowned in icy cold water!
Hot cross buns and chocolate eggs aside, there are plenty of other excellent culinary traditions around Europe – but none sweeter than the Polish Easter Lamb, or Baranek Wielkanocny. With Easter occurring at the start of the European spring – and lambs denoting a form of new life – the baby sheep is quite symbolic at this time of year. Why not make it into a cake to celebrate, right? Usually made with a pound cake recipe baked from a special mould, these adorable cakes look like a little lamb resting peacefully on some grass at Easter (and are probably just as delicious and more ethical than eating real lamb!). With cream cheese icing for the lambs’ wool and raisins for eyes and a nose, the lamb is set on the ‘grass’ (some food-coloured coconut shreds) to be devoured after Easter lunch and it’s often the first sweet treat in a while for those who have gone without sugar for the 40 days of Lent.
- Mathilda Edwards