Pagan Goddesses To Butter Sculptures: How The World Celebrates Easter

| April 3, 2015
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Source: Wikimedia

Words by Rachel Trevarthen

EASTER. A four day spectacle of chocolate rabbit and egg gifting under the guise of a giant, all knowing magical rabbit symbolising a holy man that died and was born again in the space of one weekend thousands of years ago. The closer you analyse it, the stranger it becomes.

The name stems from Ēostre (or Ostara) a Germanic pagan goddess symbolising fertility and sex, venerated for heralding the beginning of Spring. She represents the opportunity for new growth, rebirth and potential after the barren stagnation of winter.

Eostre or Ostara_Source Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia

Many religious celebrations have their roots in pagan ceremonies based on the Earth’s natural cycles and the coming and going of light. It is no mere coincidence that Jesus’ death and rebirth ties in the with such themes at the Spring Equinox.

Being the most notable event on the Christian calendar, Easter is celebrated around the world by an eclectic array customs and traditions that bring people together through ritual. So, in the name of our good Christ and in the spirit of new understanding and potential, I went on a search and here are a few of the best.

Crush whipping and dousing – Czech Republic

Czech Easter Whipping Source Demotix

Source: Demotix

One way to spice up Easter is with a dash of minor assault. This is what the Czechs do. On Easter it is customary for men to (gently) whip women they fancy with a special, homemade Easter whip. In return the freshly whipped women give their men an egg or a shot of Whiskey if they are old enough (I’m assuming over 18) and return the favour the next day by dumping ice cold water over the men they fancy. It’s actually good luck for women to be whipped because if you aren’t, well, no one fancies you. Kind of a like Valentine’s Day and the Thai Water Festival, Songkran, rolled into one fun flirting fest.

Giant Omelette Making – France

Giant Omelette Source Wall Street Journal Blogs

Source: Wall Street Journal

We know the French love food. So on Easter Monday, combining the fertile symbolism of eggs and the French’s incorrigible food obsession, the village of Haux cooks the world’s largest omelette. People from all over the village bring eggs to the town square contributing to a massive pan used to cook an omelette that feeds 1000 people and contains many thousands of eggs. Bon appetit indeed.

Butter Lamb – Russia, Poland and Slovenia

Butter Lamb_Source Mirror.co

Source: Mirror.co

On the topic of food, many Slavs also create unusual conglomerations of one food group at Easter in the form of a butter lamb. Butter is shaped into a lamb by hand or using a mould, with eyes often of peppecorns and a white banner with a red cross on a toothpick placed on its back. A creative and delicious centrepiece for the dining table.

Murder Mystery Stories – Norway

Norway Milk Source London Strategy Unit

Source: London Strategy Unit

Norwegians like to get to the heart of what really happened over Easter, bloody murder. They celebrate the occasion by getting together with the family and watching murder mysteries to figure out the killer. Major television stations screen nothing other than murder mysteries over the Easter weekend, publishing companies seek out the best crime stories for publication just before Easter and there are even murder mystery stories written on the side of milk cartoons to get people in the ‘mood’ the week prior.

Tobacco Trees – Papua New Guinea

While the French stir, the Czech’s whip and the Norwegians read, Papua New Guineans show us how Easter rolls island time, they smoke. Papua New Guineans adorn small trees with sticks of tobacco and cigarettes. Following Easter Sunday services, smokes are handed out and the congregation lights up.

Self Crucifixion – The Philippines

Crucifixtion_Philippines_Source Wikimedia

Source: Wikimedia

Staunch Catholics in the Philippines take matters a little too seriously into their own hands with some fanatics actually re-enacting the crucifixion of Jesus on themselves. Despite being condemned and strongly discouraged by the country’s Catholic Church, such spectacles attract thousands of people to see men cut their backs with blades, walk through the streets holding a cross and then being nailed to it. This takes the cake as the most barbaric tradition, perhaps in need of some revision.

Watch Grass Grow – Finland

Rye-grass_for_Easter Source Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia

How can there be anything more shocking than the celebrations in the Philippines?

Well, there can’t. The Finnish take it down some sizeable notches with their sweet tradition and one nice to ‘finish’ on. They watch grass grow, literally. Once the grass reaches maturity it is decorated with eggs and bunnies, all very springtime and Easter like.

Whichever way you choose to celebrate this Easter may you enjoy chocolate eggs in moderation, find better entertainment than watching grass grow and remember that Easter is really about the return of the sun.

Rachel Trevarthen is an English teacher, writer and experience enthusiast based in Brisbane. More of her work on her blog can be found here.

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