Decorated Easter eggs with hand painted floral motifs for sale in the windowshop of a souvenir store in the Thamel area-Kathmandu. Kathmandu district-Nepal.
17th February 2016

Europe’s Strangest Easter Traditions

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…

 

The Easter Whip – Czech Republic and Slovakia

 

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….

 

Whodunnit – Norway

 

mystery typewriter

Curiouser and curioser…

 

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!

 

No Dancing – Germany

 

Save them moves for Saturday. Gif via GIPHY
 

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.

 

Wet Monday – Bulgaria

 

bucket flowers

Whatever happened to saying it with flowers?

 

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!

 

Lamb Cakes – Poland

Easter lamb with red ribbon and powdered by sugar on white background.

Nom: Poland’s traditional Baranek Wielkanocny Easter cake tastes just as sweet as it looks

 

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.

 

Have we missed any? Share your favourite Easter traditions in the comments section below

Mathilda Edwards

Mathilda Edwards

Matilda Edwards is based between London and Melbourne and can be found blogging at: Matilda Edwards.

6 Comments

  • Kim

    In the Netherlands, where I live, the kids go looking for eggs that the parents or other familymembers hide in the garden, most of the time they are chocolates eggs and they can be small or large! Dutch tradition 🙂

    27th March 2016 at 3:21 pm
  • Martin

    Well, girls in Slovakia have it even worse. The whip is a good part of local tradition comparing the other, which is also supposed to bring a health and beauty… Girls are splashed by litres of cold water, or even thrown into the stream or river.

    15th April 2016 at 8:51 pm
  • Juha M.

    In Finland we celebrate Easter by eating a dessert called mämmi. Just google “mämmi” (or “mammi” if you have a non-Nordic keyboard) and you’ll get the idea. It tastes just like it looks. Yummy!

    13th April 2017 at 12:17 pm
  • Alexandra Damato

    In Malta we make figolli. These are 2 layers of sweet pastry with marzipan in between. They come in shapes of animals, hearts or even a human form and are covered in chocolate or icing.

    13th April 2017 at 4:24 pm
  • Kinga

    Poland has much more than just cakes! To be honest, I’m polish and I have never really seen anyone bake cakes that look anything Iike a lamb (it might be a specific region). However, we do prepare yummy baskets full of goodies (sausage, bread, decorated eggs, salt, pepper, and lamb made out of butter) and go on Saturday to have it blessed in a local church. It’s a great tradition, because it stretches the Easter to last longer and the anticipation in hard to bare! The kids decorate the eggs and parents do too. Moms sit in the kitchen baking cheesecakes, poppy seed cakes, and other specialities. Food on Sunday morning is absolutely delicious. My American husband can’t wait for Easter each year when I continue my family’s tradition in the kitchen. And Monday is still not the end of the whole holiday season. We sprinkle each other with water and it’s really fun! It’s the only day a year when you can spray a complete stranger with a little bit of water (it’s just symbolic) and you’ll both end up laughing. It really brings people together! Not to mention kids absolutely love it, all sorts of spray bottles and water guns are utilized. Of course, there are those jokers who dump girls in a bath tub full of water, but the curtesy is to make sure the water is warm! It might not sound like a lot of fun, but it really is. Like the whole city is going crazy and we can all be children for one day!

    13th April 2017 at 5:29 pm
  • Kiron Reid

    The giant Easter egg (painted egg) festivals in Poland and Ukraine are impressive. We saw them in Krakow in Poland, then in Lviv in western Ukraine, then even bigger in Kyiv (Kiev). And in Zaporizhyha in SE Ukraine I saw baskets of eggs and cakes (and maybe liquor) being taken to be blessed by the priest

    13th April 2017 at 9:49 pm

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