Come Easter Sunday, many people will find themselves scouring their yards for plastic eggs and gnawing the ears off of chocolate bunnies. What possesses us to do such strange things? Pagan rituals and old superstitions, mostly. Here are the reasons behind 11 of our favorite Easter traditions.
1. Dyeing Easter Eggs
The tradition of decorating eggs of all kinds—even ostrich eggs—may go all the way back to the ancient pagans. It’s easy to see why eggs represent rebirth and life, so associating them with spring and new growth isn’t much of a stretch. To celebrate the new season, it’s said that people colored eggs and gave them to friends and family as gifts.
When Christians came along, they likely incorporated the tradition into their celebrations. According to some legends, Mary or Mary Magdalene could be responsible for our annual trek to the store to buy vinegar and dye tablets. As the story goes, Mary brought eggs with her to Jesus’s crucifixion, and blood from his wounds fell on the eggs, coloring them red. Another tells us that Mary Magdalene brought a basket of cooked eggs to share with other women at Jesus’s tomb three days after his death. When they rolled back the stone and found the tomb empty, the eggs turned red.
2. The Easter Bunny
RyanMcGuire, Pixabay // Public Domain
At first glance, it’s hard to imagine what a giant rabbit has to do with any type of religious holiday. But according to Time, the tradition again dates back to the pagans. They celebrated a goddess of fertility named Eostre—and you may recall that fertility is exactly the trait rabbits are most famous for. It’s thought that German immigrants brought their tradition of an egg-laying hare called Osterhase to the U.S. in the 1700s.
3. Hollow Chocolate Bunnies
Now that we know why Easter is associated with rabbits, little chocolate leporidae actually make sense. But why are so many of them hollow inside? As it turns out, it’s not just to get kids used to disappointment at a young age. According to the R.M. Palmer company, one of the oldest makers of chocolate bunnies in the U.S., the empty insides are really just in consideration of your teeth. “If you had a larger-size bunny and it was solid chocolate, it would be like a brick; you’d be breaking teeth,” Mark Schlott, executive vice-president of operations, told Smithsonian.
Of course, there’s also the “wow” factor—confectioners can make a larger, more impressive-looking bunny for a reasonable price if there’s nothing inside it.
4. Easter Baskets
If you squint at an Easter basket, especially one stuffed with faux shredded grass, you can totally see its origins as a nest. Remember the German Osterhase tradition? Well, there was more to it. To encourage this mythical bunny to stop by their houses, children would fashion nests for it to come and lay its colored eggs. Over time (and maybe to contain the mess), the nests evolved into baskets.
5. Hot Cross Buns
Garry Knight, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Like the bunny and the eggs, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when people started making hot cross buns—sweet rolls studded with raisins or currants and marked with a cross on top—during the week leading up to Easter Sunday. It’s said the tradition started in the 12th century with a monk who was inspired to mark his rolls to celebrate Good Friday.
The first written record we have of them dates back to an issue of Poor Robin’s Almanac from the 1730s: “Good Friday comes this Month, the old woman runs, With one or two a Penny, hot cross Bunns [sic].”
6. Easter Fashion Parades
There’s an old superstition that wearing new clothes on Easter means good luck for the rest of the year. You could say it has something to do with rebirth and renewal, but mostly, it sounds like an excuse to go shopping. Either way, fancy new finery deserves to be seen for more than 60 minutes during Easter services, so in the mid-1800s, parishioners in New York arranged themselves into a little post-church fashion show as they left their Fifth Avenue churches. The tradition continues today, though the term “finery” seems to be a bit broader now.
7. Sunrise Services
As the story goes, Mary opened Jesus’s tomb at dawn on Easter morning to find it empty. In honor of the occasion, many churches hold services at sunrise so parishioners can experience the event similar to how it happened. The first one on record was held in 1732 in Saxony (now Germany), by a group of young men. The next year, the entire congregation attended the early-morning ceremony, and soon, the sunrise service had caught on across the country. By 1773, sunrise services had spread to the U.S.—the first was held in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
8. Easter Ham
Believe it or not, even that juicy ham on your dining room table dates back to pagan rituals honoring spring and the goddess Eostre. The tradition goes back to at least 6th-century Germany, according to Bruce Kraig, the founder of the Culinary Historians of Chicago. Hunters often slaughtered hogs in the forest in the fall, then left them to cure all winter. By spring, pork was one of the only meats ready to go for spring celebrations. As with other pagan rituals, Christianity adapted the tradition for their own needs as the religion spread.
9. Good Friday Kites
If you happen to find yourself in Bermuda on Good Friday, you may be surprised to see legions of kites dotting the sky. According to local legend, a teacher once used a kite to give her students a visual of how Jesus ascended into heaven. The analogy quickly caught on, and today, flying a simple kite made of tissue paper and sticks is still a colorful pastime.
10. Egg Knocking
Also known as egg tapping or egg jarping, egg knocking is a sport where two competitors tap the pointed ends of their eggs against each other to see which one cracks and which one “survives.” The game apparently goes back to medieval Europe, but when it comes to modern-day egg knocking, Marksville, Louisiana, is uncrackable. Since 1956, local families have gathered at the courthouse square on Easter Sunday to battle their eggs. Some families even prepare months in advance, giving their chickens special feed in hopes of producing stronger eggs.
The German tradition of Osterbrunnen—decorating public wells and fountains with elaborate greenery and Easter egg décor—only began about a century ago. It’s said that German villagers wanted to honor both Easter and the gift of water, which also represents life and renewal. Neighboring villages began to compete to see which of them could create the most fanciful fountains, and by 1980, approximately 200 villages were participating in the event. It’s even spread stateside—the town of Frankenmuth, a Bavarian-style village in Michigan, has adopted the Osterbrunnen tradition in the month surrounding Easter.
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Easter is the day on which Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  X Expert Source
Ordained Minister Expert Interview. 19 May 2019. Easter traditions vary from country to country, and can differ even within regions of the same country.  X Research source However, there are a few Easter traditions that are celebrated around the world.
- Recognize that Easter Sunday begins the Easter Season. Easter Sunday begins a new liturgical season, referred to as Eastertide or the Easter Season. This season last 50 days and ends on Pentecost Sunday, which is when Christians celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Ordained Minister Expert Interview. 19 May 2019. Therefore, Easter Sunday is a holy day for Christians. Many Christians view Easter Sunday as a day of new birth.  X Research source
Ordained Minister Expert Interview. 19 May 2019. Easter Sunday church services vary in traditions, depending upon the denomination and style of worship. Most Easter Sunday services follow the church’s standard order of worship, but usually incorporate festive music. Many churches decorate their worship spaces with Easter lilies or special liturgical banners. Some churches celebrate Holy Communion, while others observe the sacrament of baptism, which is a symbol of new life in Christ.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to cancel a lot of parties and celebrations and with Easter around the corner, we’re all left wondering how to enjoy the festive spirit. Easter bunny, egg hunts, loads of candy and fun twists to traditions make this holiday something we all look forward to. While most people believe that Easter celebrations are meant for kids, that’s not really true. This holiday is all about joy, hope and new beginnings for adults too. All you really need is a fun idea to celebrate Easter with your loved ones. Be it a traditional Easter celebration or a party, we all need to make sure that we keep our health and safety in mind while enjoying this holiday.
If you’re wondering how to celebrate Easter and make it memorable this year, don’t you worry! We’ve got you covered with some creative ideas to celebrate Easter. Scroll ahead!
How To Celebrate Easter With Family
1. Cooking a traditional Easter meal with your family is a great way to kickstart this holiday and spend time with your loved ones. A delicious Easter omelette or a traditional pot-luck style meal along with some baked treats is the perfect way to celebrate Easter.
2. While this Easter game is reserved for the kids, adults can also enjoy a great egg hunt. We recommend you organize a hunt at night and customise the game with your own rules. But at the end of the game, it’s all about the prize. You can always put cash, wine bottles and maybe even gift cards in the egg!
3. Easter celebration includes egg decoration but why not take this opportunity to make it more fun by turning it into a competition! This year, challenge your family to decorate the egg in the best possible way in a limited time frame and let the games begin!
4. Order-in your Easter dinner and support local businesses instead of cooking a whole spread at home. Use all your free time to make memories with your loved ones on this holiday.
5. Take all your relatives and loved ones on a group video call for an Easter celebration. Share Easter stories and old memories while you make new ones.
Ways To Celebrate Easter With Friends
1. There’s nothing better than an Easter party. Host a pastel themed party for the Easter celebration and invite all your close friends. Remember to maintain COVID safety norms while you enjoy this holiday.
2. Have a glow in the dark Easter egg hunt! A night egg hunt can be lots of fun but it becomes even better if you have some glow in the dark eggs! If you can’t find glow in the dark paint for your Easter eggs, you can place small glow sticks inside them instead.
3. Hold an Easter candy or chocolate making contest with your friends. Making bunny or egg-shaped chocolates or candies can be just as fun as eating them.
4. Apart from the egg hunt, there are several other Easter games to enjoy this day with your friends. You can put a bunny on a wooden target and play ring toss. You can also play a game of messy egg darts by throwing raw eggs at the target or maybe you can just play an Easter version of ‘Would You Rather?’.
5. A cook-off can be a great way to celebrate Easter. Grab your aprons and whip up your grandma’s Easter recipe and let everyone decide which dish is the best.
6. Marshmallow peeps are a huge part of Easter celebrations. But as an adult, you can always include it in a fun way at your Easter party. Make vodka infused marshmallow peeps for your party and you can also use them for your cocktails.
Fun Facts About Easter
– Ever wondered why the Easter date is different every year but it’s always on a Sunday? Well, it’s because Easter is actually celebrated on the first Sunday after the full moon on or after March 21. This holiday also marks the beginning of the spring season.
– We all know that the Easter bunny is a legend but did you know that it originated in Germany? And that’s not all, much like the Christmas legend this Easter legend has no connection with the holiday. The Easter bunny legend began in pre-Christian Germany.
– This holiday is named after the Anglo-Saxon Goddess of fertility, dawn and light –Eostre. Hare and the egg are said to be the symbols of Goddess Eostre.
– Apart from Halloween, Easter is the one festival where candy sales are the highest. In fact, Cadbury makes almost 500 million Creme eggs every year which is about 1.5 million egg-shaped chocolate per day.
– The tradition of painting and decorating eggs during the Easter celebration was inspired by a Ukrainian custom. The Ukrainians decorate Gods and Goddesses of health and fertility using wax, dyes and paints.
– Pretzels are a savoury snack that is traditionally associated with the Easter celebration. This salty treat was considered an Easter snack because it looks a lot like arms crossing in prayer.
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Easter Wishes And Messages: Coronavirus has made it difficult for us to celebrate festivals with social distancing and other safety norms. But this does not mean that we need to skip such annual holidays. Easter celebrations may or may not happen but you can spread some positivity this holiday by sharing warm wishes, quotes and messages with your loved ones.
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A girl holding an Easter egg on the eve of the Orthodox Easter at the Cathedral of Our Lade of Don.
12am: Go to church
Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia during an Easter service at the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow.
Inside Orthodox churches, Easter begins on the evening of the night before. Many Russians (both religious and non-religious) congregate in darkened churches before midnight, and as midnight approaches, the priest announces that “Christ is risen” (Christos voskres ), followed by candle lighting, liturgical chants and ecstatic hugging and kissing. Many of the attendees will make this their only trip to the church during the year – just be sure you dress in your best clothes.
After this, much of the procession goes home to bed, but the most religious devotees strap themselves in for a long, colorful procedure, which usually ends early in the morning.
8am to 11am: Visit a graveyard
Muscovites at Mitino cemetery on Easter Sunday.
Paying respects to the dead on Easter Sunday has been a tradition for centuries, and was an Easter Sunday staple during Soviet times. Many Russians pay homage to dead relatives by bringing food from the feast, such as eggs and kulich [Russian Easter cake], to the graveside.
This is a Russian tradition that has its origins in paganism rather than Orthodox and is generally only observed by Russia’s secular population. The Orthodox Church has advocated firmly against this tradition, with Archbishop Vsevolod Chaplin once claiming, “there is no greater sin than praying for the deceased on Easter Sunday.”
If that does not put you off, let our handy Moscow graveyard guide inspire you.
11am to 2pm : Have an enormous lunch
An Easter cake and eggs.
Typically , Orthodox lent requires its participants to adhere to a strict vegan diet for 40 days. Easter lunch is supposed to serve as a reward for their faith when, after the night service, they get to tuck into a breakfast fit for a king.
This brunch usually involves paskha, a sweet pyramid-shaped pudding, makovnik, a delicious poppy seed cake, and kulich, a sweet bread topped with white icing and sprinkles. It is often accompanied by animal products that adherents have to deny themselves during Lent, such as ham, cheese, or milk. The only downside is the baking process: Most treats are made by Russians on Saturday, but since it’s still technically Lent then, they’re not even allowed to sample their own baked goods. Harsh!
Eggs are also a big part of the Russian Easter process. There is no tradition of chocolate eggs in Russia – instead, Orthodox followers stick to the more religious tradition of the natural Easter egg, which symbolizes Christ’s resurrection. Most traditionally, the eggs are colored red (using onion peel) to symbolize the blood of Christ, but stunning patterns can also be created using coffee, spinach, and beets. Find out how with our essential egg-painting guide.
2pm to 5pm : Go and see some Faberge eggs
While most Russians will spend the day with their families, there are plenty of alternatives on offer. One interesting way to spend the afternoon is to witness Russia’s most ceremonial Easter creation – the Faberge Egg. The world-renowned Faberge eggs are the crown jewel in the legacy of the House of Faberge, Russia’s most famous jewelry company. The Russian royal family often commissioned the eggs for Easter, so this is the perfect time of year to see the spectacular ornaments and appreciate their godlike splendor. The largest collections of Faberge eggs are in the Kremlin Armory in Moscow, or in St. Petersburg’s Faberge Museum.
5pm to 7pm : Visit an Easter gift festival
Participants in a spring parade held as part of the Easter Gift festival in Tverskoy Boulevard.
If you don’t want to spend the day at home, another alternative Easter activity is to go out around town and take part in some traditional Easter activities yourself. Most cities in Russia will have some kind of Easter fair, involving a variety of family activities. In the Moscow Easter Gift Festival, for example, events such as food tasting, stained glass-making and immersive theater will be set up around the city. Many cities will also put on traditional dance performances, including folk and Orthodox music.
7pm to 12am: Listen to the Easter Music Festival
Valery Gergiev, Russian conductor, general director and artistic director of the Mariinsky Theatre, and Russian pianist Denis Matsuev perform during a Easter Festival on Moscow’s Poklonnaya Hill.
Since 2002, the Russian Easter Music Festival has been showcasing the best in Russian symphony, chamber music, choral music and bell ringing, inviting esteemed musicians from around the world to perform for the occasion.
Check out the schedule here.
If using any of Russia Beyond’s content, partly or in full, always provide an active hyperlink to the original material.
In the Greek Orthodox faith, Easter is the most sacred observance. The preparations and customs, including traditional foods and large feasts, remain an important part of modern Greek life. Toward the end of Holy Week, which is between Palm Sunday and Easter, the preparations for Easter come to a climax. While each region may have its own local customs associated with Easter, there are several traditions that are observed by everyone.
Easter preparations begin on Holy (or Great) Thursday. This is when the traditional Easter bread, tsoureki, is baked and eggs are dyed red to represent the blood of Christ. From ancient times, the red eggs have been a symbol of the renewal of life, carrying the message of the victory over death.
In times gone by, superstitions grew into customs. These include placing the first red egg at the home's iconostasis (the place where icons are displayed) to ward off evil. It also involved marking the heads and backs of small lambs with the red dye to protect them. On the evening of Holy Thursday, church services include a symbolic representation of the crucifixion and the period of mourning begins. In many villages and cities, women will sit in church throughout the night in traditional mourning.
The holiest day of the week is Holy (or Great) Friday. It is a day of mourning and not one of work. It is also the only day of the year when the Divine Liturgy is not read. Flags are hung at half-mast and church bells ring all day in a slow, mournful tone.
Many devout people do not cook on Holy Friday. If they do, traditional foods are simple and only those that can be boiled in water (not oil) and seasoned with vinegar. Beans or thin soups like tahinosoupa (a soup made with tahini) are quite common. Traditionally, women and children take flowers to the church to decorate the Epitaphio (the symbolic bier of Christ). It is the day for the Service of Lamentation, which mourns the death of Christ.
The bier is decorated lavishly with flowers and bears the image of Christ. During the service, it is carried on the shoulders of the faithful in a procession that runs through the community to the cemetery and back. Members of the congregation follow, carrying candles.
On Holy (or Great) Saturday, the Eternal Flame is brought to Greece by a military jet and is distributed to waiting priests who carry it to their local churches. The event is always televised and if there's a threat of bad weather or a delay, the entire country agonizes until the flame arrives safely.
On the morning of Holy Saturday, preparations begin for the next day’s Easter feast. Dishes that can be prepared in advance are made. The traditional mayiritsa soup, which uses the organs and intestines of the lamb that will be roasted, is prepared. This will be eaten after the midnight service. The midnight Service of the Resurrection is an occasion attended by everyone who is able, including children. Each person holds a white candle that is only used for this service.
The special candles that are made for Easter are called labatha (lah-BAH-thah). They are often given to children as gifts from their parents or Godparents. Though the candle itself is typically white, it can be lavishly decorated with favorite children’s heroes or storybook characters. They may reach as high as three feet tall.
The crowds are so big that churches fill to overflowing as anticipation mounts. Shortly before midnight, all lights are extinguished and the churches are lit only by the Eternal Flame on the altar.
When the clock passes midnight, the Priest calls out "Christos Anesti" (khree-STOHSS ah-NES-tee, "Christ is risen") and passes the flame (the light of the Resurrection) to those nearest him. The flame is then passed from person to person and it isn't long before the church and courtyard are glowing with flickering candlelight.
The night air is filled with the singing of the Byzantine Chant "Christos Anesti," and the "fili tis Agapis" ("kiss of Agape"). Friends and neighbors exchange "Christos Anesti" with one another as a way of wishing one another well. In response, they will say "Alithos Anesti" (ah-lee-THOHSS ah-NES-tee, "truly, He is risen") or "Alithinos o Kyrios" (ah-lee-thee-NOHSS o KEE-ree-yohss, "true is the Lord").
As soon as "Christos Anesti" is called out, it is also the custom for church bells to ring joyously non-stop. Ships in ports all over Greece join in by sounding their horns, floodlights are lit on large buildings, and large and small displays of fireworks and noisemakers are set off.
The Traditional Meal
It is the custom to carry the Eternal Flame home and use it to make the sign of the cross in smoke on the door frame. The smoke cross is left there throughout the year, symbolizing that the light of the Resurrection has blessed the home. The candles are used to light icon candelabra and are put on the table for the midnight meal. The sight of hundreds of candle flames moving from churches to homes on that night is indeed beautiful.
Once home, everyone gathers around the table for a traditional meal to break the fast. This includes the mayiritsa soup, tsoureki (sweet bread), and red eggs, which were prepared earlier. Before the eggs are eaten, there’s a traditional challenge called tsougrisma. Holding your egg, you tap the end against the end of your opponent’s egg, trying to crack it. It’s a game enjoyed by children and adults alike. Eggs are often made in very large quantities since the game continues the next day with even more friends and family.
The main focus of Easter Sunday is on traditional Greek Easter foods. At dawn (or earlier), the spits are set to work and grills are fired up. The customary main attraction of the day is whole roasted lamb or goat (kid) to represent the Lamb of God. However, many prefer oven and stovetop lamb or kid dishes.
Appetizers, such as Greek olives and tzatziki (a cucumber yogurt dip), are served for guests to enjoy while watching the lamb cook on the spit. Ovens are filled with traditional accompaniments and all the trimmings, such as patates fournou (potatoes roasted with citrus and oregano) and spanakotyropita (spinach and cheese pie).
Great Greek wines, ouzo, and other drinks flow freely. Preparations for the meal turn into festive celebrations, even before the eating begins. The meal is a lengthy affair, often lasting long into the night, sometimes up to four hours.
Another national holiday, Easter Monday is a day to take things slowly. It may be more casual, but it is definitely a day filled with delicious leftovers and a time to relax from the all the previous celebrations.
Though the central message is the same across different Christian cultural traditions, specific Easter ceremonies and celebrations may vary across cultures, from the candy and egg hunts held throughout the United States to the countryside vacations favored by many Swedish people.
In many ways, Easter is the most theologically significant Christian holiday as it celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ after his execution by crucifixion. This resurrection represents Jesus’ holy qualities and is believed to prove that he is the son of God.
Because of its theological significance, Easter celebrations are often religious in nature, typically including church attendance even by those who don’t regularly go to church on a weekly basis. Along with Christmas, the celebration of Christ’s birth, Easter is one of the most important Christian holidays, and many casual Christians observe it.
Though Easter always falls on a Sunday, some countries mark the occasion by declaring the following Monday an official government holiday during which banks and most businesses are closed, giving employees the opportunity to celebrate with families.
Eggs are a symbol of the holiday throughout Christian traditions across the globe. The egg is said to symbolize the empty tomb left behind by Christ after his resurrection, though this tradition also has pagan roots as a celebration of spring.
People in many areas of the world celebrate Easter by hard boiling and dying eggs. The custom of dying eggs has its roots in Ancient Egyptian and Persian cultures, when people would dye eggs and gift them to friends and family members during festivals. The tradition has since spread to Christians, who dye eggs and give them to loved ones to celebrate the resurrection of Christ.
Another traditionally Christian Easter celebration is the baking, gifting and eating of hot cross buns. Hot cross buns, traditionally eaten on Good Friday, are affiliated with Easter due to the cross symbol on the top of each. However, the tradition of eating hot cross buns pre-dates Christianity.
In Lithuania, Easter (Velykos) is the most sacred of holidays. It signifies the end of the 40-day Lent, and begins on Palm Sunday, lasting throughout Holy Week where Lithuanians attend church several times. There are also several traditions that are unique to the Lithuanian culture.
Celebrations for Easter or velykos in Lithuania actually begin on Palm Sunday with the start of Great Week. But "Palm Sunday" is actually a misnomer since palms grow in warm, humid climates. Instead, verba or "dwarfed spruce" branches are used. The verbos are collected and then adorned with flowers and ribbons. After being blessed in church, they are brought home and dried. The needles are pulled off and saved to be burned as incense during times of calamity like thunderstorms, sickness, and death. The bare branches are tucked behind holy pictures or in the rafters of the home for protection.
Holy Thursday, or Didysis Ketvirtadienis in Lithuanian, is a time for ritual cleansing. In the old days, the bathhouses were heated and, for those near bodies of water, a quick dip in a river, lake or pond (or at least a perfunctory splash on the face) was required. Not only was it imperative to clean one's own person, but the entire house and everything in it – windows, stoves, walls, clothes – needed to be in pristine condition.
On Good Friday, Didysis Penktadienis in Lithuanian, people are very somber in respect for the crucified Christ. Children are forbidden to make noise, and the house cleaning begun on Holy Thursday comes to an end because, as superstition has it, the dust can get into Jesus' eyes and he is already suffering so much. Another rather macabre Good Friday superstition has it that all bugs and pests can be removed from the home by scattering cemetery soil where the bugs breed!
On Holy Saturday, Didysis Šeštadienis in Lithuanian, people go to church to obtain blessed fire and water. The belief is that they have miraculous powers and can cure a multitude of ills and provide protection. A basket of Easter foods – eggs, salt, bread, cake, ham, bacon, sausage, butter, cheese, a symbolic butter or sugar lamb, and other foods that vary by family – are brought to church for a blessing. Blessing of the Baskets is a common tradition among most Eastern Europeans. Some regions have their food blessed on Holy Saturday and others on Easter morning.
Preparing for Easter on Holy Saturday
The food that will be eaten on Easter is prepared on Holy Saturday and, later, the entire family colors Easter eggs. These margučiai are decorated by two methods. In their simplest form, they are dyed naturally with onion skins, beets, flower petals, hay, and tree bark, for example. The more elegant eggs are made with the wax-resist method.
After Easter morning church services, people return to their homes to dine on a sumptuous breakfast with the contents of the blessed food basket. The meal starts with an egg that can be sliced and shared by the entire family as a sign of unity, or each person can have his own egg and toast with it by clinking it against another's. If your eggshell remains unbroken after the "clinking," you are destined to have a long life.
Then, for dinner, all the stops are pulled with a groaning board of delights forbidden during Lent and now eaten in celebration of Christ's Resurrection. Eggs in every conceivable form, pig's head or roast pig, roast goose, roast chicken, baked ham or roasted lamb, bread, cheese, sausage, potato sausage, bacon, horseradish, and more. There are blynai, dumplings, kugelis, salads galore and mushrooms in almost every dish. And then comes an incredible assortment of desserts. They include Easter Bread (Velykos Pyragas), Easter Gypsy Pie (Velyku Pyragas Cigonas), Log Cake, Poppyseed Roll (Pyragas su Aguonomis), Mushroom Cookies (Grybai), Easter Cake (Kaimak), Molded Cheese Dessert (Pashka), Poppyseed Cookies (Aguonu Sausainiukai), and so much more. And to wash it all down, good strong coffee and homemade gira, which is similar to kwas.
Lithuanian Easter Granny and the Easter Bunny
On Easter Sunday, children hunt for Easter eggs left for them by the Velykų Senelė (Easter Granny), also known as Velykė. Bunny helpers paint the eggs for Granny and load them on a little cart pulled by a tiny horse. Granny uses a sunbeam as a whip and, sometimes, instead of a tiny horse, the bunnies pull the cart. Granny distributes the eggs to all good children. Bad children receive only a single, plain white egg. Sounds like the St. Nicholas Day coal in the stocking trick! The Easter Bunny (Velykos Kiškis) also figures prominently in Lithuanian Easter. He bakes up a batch of bunny-shaped cookies very early on Easter morning and distributes them to all good children.
Easter is celebrated in much the same way in the Netherlands as it is in other Christian countries. However, there are a number of Easter traditions unique to the Netherlands such as the Easter hare (Passhass) rather than the bunny. In Dutch, Pasen usually refers to Easter Sunday (Eerste Paasdag) and Easter Monday (Tweede Paasdag).
Dutch Easter Edibles
Dutch children spend the morning of Easter Sunday decorating hard-boiled eggs with brightly colored paint and hunting for hidden chocolate eggs. Easter eggs are a symbol of rebirth and fertility, but eggs could also be regarded as a pars pro toto (or "part for the whole") replacement for the ritual sacrifice of chickens, a legacy of the region's prehistoric religions.
Combining wheat, the end result of the harvest, with eggs in baked goods, such as enriched breads and cakes was once perhaps a symbolic offering to appease the so-called “vegetation demon.” Traditionally, the Dutch breakfast table contained various light wheat-based Easter breads and braided loaves, bread rolls as well as pumpernickel, some of which were a once a gift given to one’s godchildren on Easter. One of the most popular Easter breads surviving today is the Paasstol, a richly fruited loaf with a center of soft almond paste.
You’ll also find molded kinds of butter in hen, bunny or lamb shapes on the table. Other brunch items include smoked fish such as salmon and eel, vlaaien (fruit-filled pies), yellow pastries and treats, including egg-rich advocaat liqueur, eierkoeken (“egg cakes”), and Jodenkoeken (a type of buttery Dutch shortbread), and other more typical Dutch breakfast items.
Dutch Easter Table Decoration
The Dutch Easter table is typically decorated with baskets of freshly painted Easter eggs, candles and spring flowers such as daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths. The centerpiece is often a vase with decorated willow branches (known as paastakken). Hanging from this "Easter tree" are chocolate eggs and paper ornaments such as bunnies, butterflies, flowers, lambs and other springtime symbols symbolizing fertility, nature's rebirth and, perhaps, even ritual sacrifice.
In some parts of the Netherlands, you can still find a traditional palmpaasch (a decorated stick topped with a broodhaantje, or "bread rooster"), one of the few folkloric bread customs to have survived to modern times. The origins of the bread rooster can be traced back to the sacrificial breads that replaced Germanic bone offerings and ancient animal sacrifices. The usual Christian explanation for the tradition is that the rooster, a familiar weather vane on top of Christian church spires, is a symbol to remind Christians of Peter’s betrayal of Christ, but also a representation of Jesus Christ as the bringer of light.
Easter Monday is a public holiday in the Netherlands. Weather permitting, Dutch families often spend the day visiting family, Easter markets, festivals and fairs, cycling in the countryside or visiting an amusement park.
Bad weather Easters often mean big business for shopping centers and furniture stores. In the eastern part of the Netherlands, so-called paasvuren (Easter bonfires) are lit to celebrate Easter. The singing of traditional Easter songs, dancing and jovial processions are all part of the fun. These Easter bonfires are an ancient tradition, which predates Christianity.