Since it’s that time of the year again and most of us have, by now, finished stuffing their faces with chocolate bunnies and stollen-like cakes and confections, maybe we should consider that this holiday doesn’t mean the same thing for everyone celebrating it, even within the same religion. The principle might be the same: celebrate the resurrection of Christ or the liberation of Israel from under the Egyptian slave-drivers, through a period of abstinence followed by feasting, but the ways this celebration can take place can be surprisingly unique. Let’s have a look at the funniest or simply the most unusual or weird Easter and Passover traditions from around the world.
In Poland, the Hassidic Jews reenact the crossing of the Red Sea (you know, when Moses parted the waters allowing the people to cross) right in their living rooms. Yup, you’re probably imagining it right. They pour water on the floor; then lift up their clothing and cross the waters.
The Christians in Poland, on the other hand, have some very interesting folklore surrounding the Easter preparations. Apparently the men of the house are not allowed to help prepare the food for the holiday, because if they would, not only the dough would fail to rise and the food would not taste good, but their moustaches would also turn grey. Yikes, better leave everything to the women, huh?
They like omelets all year round in France (remember that moment in Dexter’s Laboratory when poor little Dexter was so stuck on “omelette du fromage”?) and consuming eggs one way or the other on Easter is a habit in many parts of the world. But in a certain region of France (the Haux town from the Nantes province), people make their omelet a bit differently. Each family takes their eggs in the town’s central market, to a huge pan, and they all make a huge omelet they then proceed to eat. It uses over 4500 eggs and feeds over 1000 people. Talk about extended family.
The Jews in Afghanistan maintained the habit of gently whipping themselves with scallions (fresh spring produce for the win, eh?), in order to symbolize the whips of their former slave drivers, the Egyptians. I can totally picture this escalating if we imported it (just kidding).
Orthodox parts of Eastern Europe
“Pomlazka” is a lovely habit of the Czech Republic, Slovakia and some parts of Poland that involves a neat beauty trick. To make sure the women remain beautiful the rest of the year, on Easter Monday the men need to splash them with cold water and whip them with a willow-made light whip. Similar habits, mainly involving the water splashing, can be found under different names in other parts of Eastern Europe as well. I think I’d take a spa appointment over this any day.
Ethiopia and Greece
You may wonder what these two countries could have in common. Well, if you happen to visit either one of them during Easter or Passover, you’d better protect your head. People like to celebrate by throwing their crockery and pots out the window, so shards of pottery may be flying around! The tradition is meant to symbolize the breaking of the past, to make way for the new, and the joy of having a smashing good time after the long lent. Perhaps they may be on to something here – the Greeks have a similar habit anyway of having a good time at weddings and parties by smashing plates on the ground while dancing. Oh, and another little detail. While the rest of the world celebrates Easter with the customary egg-cracking or egg-knocking as a way to consume hardboiled eggs, in Greece, apparently, they crack them on the table neighbor’s head. Cheers, I say.
Hopefully, you liked this short list of weird Easter and Passover traditions. Puts one’s own holidays into perspective, right?