Truly unusual Easter traditions around Europe

Thinking about the Easter chocolate eggs, Easter doves, and softly colored decorations with bunnies, chicks and spring flowers will probably come to mind. But this celebration, which this year falls on March 31st for Catholic Christians and May 5th for Orthodox Christians, is full of little-known and completely unusual traditions. Here are some of the most unique customs, touching different areas of Europe.

The bread cathedral of San Biagio (Italy)

Arches of Easter San Biagio

Every year, the citizens of the rural town of San Biagio Platani (Agrigento) work for months on the construction of a structure that resembles that of a life-size cathedral composed mainly of bread, oranges, dates, eggs, salt, bay leaves and rosemary. The tradition was born in the second half of the seventeenth century, in the feudal era, when the Sicilians welcomed visiting sovereigns by building splendid marble arches. This small town, however, was made up of farmers, who were not particularly wealthy. So, their bows were used with the fruit of their hard work, which was their wealth: bread. There are still documents preserved today by the local diocese in which the quantities of the harvest to be set aside solely for the construction of the arches were specified.

This splendid example of vegetal architecture is an expression of resurrection of Jesus and therefore a symbol of the triumph of life over death.

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L'Ostereierbaumthe ancient tradition of the decorated Easter tree (Germany)

Easter egg tree

Although it is not known precisely when it originated, the “Ostereierbaum”, or “the tree with Easter eggs”, is one ancient German tradition in which the plants and bushes of public and private gardens are adorned with many small hand-painted eggs made of wood, plastic or glass (there are even those who use eggshells).

At the end of the 19th century the idea even reached the United States. According to the historian C. K. Kaufman the person who influenced everyone with the easter egg tree craze was by Louis C. Tiffany (the famous inventor of the Art Nouveau style glass mosaics which take his name), who in the spring of 1895 gave a colorful spring festival in his garden, in which there was a plant dressed up with many small bright eggs.

In America, with the exception of the Pennsylvania Dutch region, the tradition has practically disappeared, but it is still very much alive throughout the country Germanyin Austria And German-speaking Switzerland. Other Eastern European countries (Ukraine, Poland, Hungary to name a few) have also adopted this flamboyant tradition.

The unique labyrinthine dance in the cathedrals (France)

In medieval times (12th century), in cathedrals floors began to appear in northern France with stones arranged to form gods labyrinths passable dishes.

But why create labyrinths in sacred places? There are those who believe that they represented the symbolic pilgrimage of Jesus' journey to Golgotha, but there are also those who believe that it was the metaphor of the journey from the crucifixion to the resurrection.

Although we will probably never discover the true reason for the creation of the labyrinths, there is a document from the fourteenth century that tells of the labyrinth being used as a ball field for Easter Monday.

Basilica of Saint Quentin
Over the centuries many labyrinths have been removed from these sacred places. However, there are still some testimonies, such as the labyrinth of the transept of the Basilica of San Quentin, which was built in the 12th century.

The clergy men they gathered around the labyrinth and they danced in a circle, while the archbishop danced along the path inside. Meanwhile, he threw the ball to the priests, until he reached the center of the labyrinth. According to some medieval historians this rite was also practiced in the cathedrals of Auxerre (and most likely also in those of Amiens and Chartres) and found its roots in the ancient pagan practices survived for a long time in that area of ​​France. This custom has been lost for centuries now.

Påskekrimthe strange tradition of Easter in “yellow” (Norway)


The tradition of Påskekrim is truly singular and worthy of note: during the Easter holiday week, in fact, Norwegians immerse themselves in reading crime, thriller and crime books. But why at Easter? To understand why we must take a step back in time, to 1923.

That year the two authors Nordahl Grieg And Nils Lie they wrote a detective novel, hoping it would be published in time for the Easter holidays. This is because in Norway they last a week, and to pass the days Norwegians used to read entertainment novels.

The publisher Gyldendal, who fell madly in love with the compelling story created by the two writers, had a very creative idea to promote Grieg and Lie's book: he published a front-page advert in the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten with an impressive headline: “Bergen train ransacked at night”, referring to the famous railway from Oslo to Bergen. However, that wasn't news that actually happened, but just the title of the novel!


People, however, initially fell for it, and bought the newspaper to find out more, only to discover that it was a promotion for a book. Think of the creativity of the publisher, who, to further encourage the purchase of the novel, in addition to publishing this title on the cover, had the interventions of desperate people who had relatives on the train inserted in the first pages. Obviously, it was all a hoax! This advertising idea had a great effect, because soon the book soon became a bestseller.

Since then, crime stories have been Norwegians' faithful companions during the Easter holidays, so much so that even milk carton manufacturers still print small crime stories on their cartons during those days.

Śmigus-dyngusthe custom of Wet Monday (Eastern Europe)

The Śmigus-Dyngusthe “wet Monday” of Easter Monday, is a deeply felt tradition in many Eastern European countries, particularly in Poland. In ancient times, boys threw buckets of water about the girls, who would do the same thing to them the next day. Why water? It was thought to be a good omen for the fertility. Nowadays, however, everyone is a potential “victim”, and they use any means to hit each other: water balloons, plastic bags and bottles and the inevitable water guns, a means preferred by children.


This curious way of celebrating has its roots in pagan tradition: Śmigus it refers precisely to the water fight and to another unpleasant custom: whipping women “for fun” with tree twigs or willow branches immersed in cold water. Dyngus refers to the practice of bribing men by giving them colored eggs.

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