6 Easter Traditions You Might Not Know
The sacred Christian holiday of Easter is celebrated in somewhat similar ways around the world, but there are some traditions from various regions that may be new to you.
1. Baranek Wielkanocny
The Baranek Wielkanocny, or Easter Butter Lamb is a hunk of butter shaped into a woolly lamb to celebrate Easter in Poland. You might find one in your Easter basket or use it as a centerpiece for the holiday feast. If the local priest is blessing baskets of Easter foods before they are laid out for the meal, the Butter Lamb is always included. They are sold in delis around the holiday or you can make your own at home.
2. The Burning of Judas
In several countries, it is customary to burn an effigy of Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus, sometimes as part of a Passion play. See burnings in Mexico, Greece, Venezuela, Crete, Portugal, and Spain. The effigy is often hanged by the neck before the burning on the Friday or Saturday before Easter. For an added touch, some celebrants stuff the effigy with fireworks or give it the face of an unpopular politician.
3. Pysanky Eggs
Eggs, symbols of new life, are used in several ways to mark the Easter holiday. People in many countries decorate eggs in beautiful colors. Pysanky eggs are an example of Ukrainian folk art. They are decorated in nature motifs using a batik method. The designs are drawn in negative with wax, and colors are built up using successive dye immersions. The wax design is changed as different colors of dye are used. The results can be quite elaborate. Here's a tutorial on making Pysanky eggs. Photograph by Luba Petrusha.
In the Philippines, some Christians put themselves through the same punishments that Jesus endured, from self-flagellation to allowing themselves to be nailed to a cross. This "mortification of the flesh" is extremely painful, but volunteers are not left on crosses long enough to endanger their lives. Representatives of the Catholic church try to discourage these extreme re-enactments. Image by Flickr user nigel@hornchurch.
5. Maundy Money
Maundy Thursday is the Thursday before Easter, traditionally the day Jesus celebrated the Passover meal known as the last supper and was later arrested. In the United Kingdom, the day is commemorated when the reigning monarch gives away Maundy Money. In times past, the king or queen washed the feet of the poor as well to show humility. In the modern era, the giving of alms is ceremonial, with Queen Elizabeth passing out coins in an amount equal to her age. Special coins are minted for this purpose, which become collector's items. This Thursday, she will distribute 84 pence to each recipient.
6. The Rocket War of Vrondados
In the village of Vrondados, on the Greek island of Chios, the annual war of the rockets is staged between two churches, Agios Marcos and Erithiani. Residents spend all year preparing thousands of rockets containing fireworks. On Saturday night before Orthodox Easter, the rockets are fired between the churches for hours. The custom goes back many years, and although there are plenty of stories, no one is quite sure how the tradition began.
This article originally appeared in 2010.