Born and raised in the United States, I’ve celebrated Easter with easter egg hunts, baskets filled with bunny and egg-shaped chocolates, and going to mass on Easter Sunday in pastel colors My parents are from the Philippines and in certain regions of the country, there’s a Holy Week ritual that involves reenacting the crucifixion. This got me thinking of what other countries do to celebrate Easter.
1. Real-Life Crucifixion & Self-Flagellation in The Philippines
In a country that’s more than 86% Catholic, some of the most devout show their faith by reenacting the crucifixion of Christ with real nails hammered into their palms and feet to atone for their sins. Others show penitence by flogging themselves with wooden whips, their backs bloodied from the trauma. These “passion plays” happen predominantly in the Central Luzon province of Pampanga and also occur in other areas of the archipelago.
2. Drenched in Ice Water & Whipped in the Czech Republic & Slovakia
If you’re a female in the Czech Republic or Slovakia you better be ready to get drenched and whipped the Monday after Easter. Men pour buckets of ice water or spray cold water on their female relatives and if that’s not enough, they also whip them with braided willow branches. The tradition is supposed to symbolize youth and strength to make women healthy for the upcoming spring season.
3. An Easter Feast Harkens Back to Indigenous Times in Colombia
Easter for Colombians is a festive time spent with family sharing a meal of exotic animals including iguana, turtles or capybara, the world’s largest rodent. It’s not certain how the tradition of eating rodents came to be, but in Pre-Spanish Colonial times, the indigenous people who lived by the river ate such animals, according to anthropologists. Although these animals aren’t endangered, hunting and selling of slider turtles, iguana, and small crocodiles is illegal, however poorer indigenous communities are allowed to eat them for survival.
4. Easter Bunny Hunt in New Zealand
When I think of the Easter Bunny, it brings back memories of the popular commercial with the fuzzy bunny making a clucking sound while laying a chocolate egg. But in New Zealand, Easter bunnies beware! Every year in Central Otago in the South, hunters shoot to kill as many rabbits as they can in 24 hours. Last year, a reported 10,000 rabbits were killed as teams signed up to compete against each other to see who can kill the most. Why is this done? Organizers have said that the rabbits create erosion on the local farms. Animal rights activists abhor the ritual calling it a massacre.
5. Bingeing On Crime Novels & Detective Stories in Norway
Easter Crime Fiction or “Påskekrim” in Norway is the tradition of reading detective novels, watching a crime series on TV, or listening to crime stories on the radio, specifically produced for Easter. It’s said that the tradition started after a publisher placed an ad for a new crime novel during Easter in 1923. Crime fiction ended up being a big hit around Easter time as many Norwegians take the time off to head up to their mountain cabins for some relaxation and time to catch up on the latest thriller.
6. The Witches of Easter in Finland & Sweden
On either the Thursday or Saturday before Easter, little girls get dressed up as witches in parts of Finland and Sweden to go trick-or-treating. They wear oversized clothes, headscarves, paint freckles and rosy cheeks on their face then carry a copper pot door to door asking for treats. The tradition comes from local folklore about a time when witches flew off on broomsticks to a far off meadow where they would commune with the devil.
7. Eating A Massive Omelette in France
Villagers in Bessières, France gather together to make a giant omelet using 15,000 eggs on the Monday after Easter. Legend says that Napoleon had an omelet that he enjoyed so much while traveling with his army through the south of France, that he ordered the townspeople of Bessières to make omelets for his entire army. So ever since 1973, the town makes an omelet each year that can literally feed an army.