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Interesting Easter Traditions Around The World

Easter Holy Week is a major religious event around the world. We’ve pulled together a list of some interesting Easter traditions around the world that might spark new ideas for your church’s own celebrations.

Tierra Santa – the Jesus Theme Park

Let’s start our exploration by heading to Buenos Aires, home to Tierra Santa – the “Jesus theme park.”

This theme park is set within the city limits, and is setup to resemble an ancient Jerusalem town. Guests are free to explore the town and understand the life of Jesus. Actors recreate key items from the life of Jesus. Children can carry a cross, and admission is free for nuns.

One important note – all re-enactments are performed in Spanish, which offers an interesting opportunity for those trying to learn the language.

Semana Santa

For much of the Spanish-speaking world, Semana Santa (Easter Holy Week) and Domingo de Pascua (Easter Sunday) are among the most important days of the year. Indeed, the celebrations and observances around Easter rival Christmas. In many countries, the entire week leading up to Easter Sunday is a holiday with the majority of businesses closed in observance.

Traditions run deep during at Easter. The week is viewed as a time for reflection and worship with family and loved ones. In Costa Rica, for example, every community coordinates traditional masses (the majority of the country are practicing Catholics). On the Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of Holy Week, communities hold parades and processions. A final parade is held on Easter Sunday. This is also a common practice in other countries, such as the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic, most of the country shuts down for a week of celebrations and rest for Semana Santa.

Christian worship was banned in Cuba until 1988, the first time churches were allowed to celebrate Christmas. In 2012, church bells around the country rang on Easter Sunday for the first time in almost 50 years. Semana Santa has re-emerged in Cuban culture as an important time of year. Good Friday is now a recognized national holiday, and communities are beginning to again coordinate the Easter parades and processions so common in Latin American culture.

In Mexico, Easter is a time for good food, spending time with family and celebration. Communities buzz with life as street vendors provide delicious treats of cheese, fried fish, plantains and hot cakes. Skilled artisans weave together decorations made from palm fronds, which are designed to be taken home and proudly displayed. As in other countries celebrating Semana Santa, families enjoy parades and processions to celebrate the season.

Easter Witches of Sweden

Sweden is a mostly secular country and Easter takes on an interesting twist that might remind many more of Halloween than Easter.

According to Swedish folklore, Maundy Thursday is a day when witches gather on Blåkulla island, just off the coast on the country in the Baltic Sea. There, the witches plot and plan mischief as they celebrate their Sabbath. The country has a long and sordid history of witch hunts in its past. Indeed, on Maundy Thursday it was not uncommon for residents to shutter their chimneys and hide items – like broomsticks – to avoid being accused of any witchcraft.

Today, interestingly, Maundy Thursday has become a major holiday for children. Children dress up in costumes inspired by witches and go door-to-door exchanging artwork they have created for sweet treats.

Easter Water Fight

You’ve probably heard of Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday as part of Easter celebrations, but what about Wet Monday?

In Poland, Easter Monday is essentially a national water fight called Śmigus-dyngus , or Wet Monday. The tradition appears to date back to at least the 14th century. Early on Monday morning, boys will sneak into a girl’s home and throw water on her – often while she is still in bed! Often, the poor girls are then dragged to a nearby river for yet another dousing.

The inclusion of water is thought to be an allusion to the Rite of Baptism, while others speculate it is connected to a wish for spring rains that will lead to a successful harvest later in the year. Sometimes, the girls are also spanked with pussy willows, which are believed to be used as a replacement for palm fronds (which are not available naturally in Poland).

Girls can save themselves from the soaking and spanking by giving the boys a gift (ransom) of a painted egg. The egg is meant to symbolize good harvests, relationships and healthy childbirths. In theory, the girls are supposed to wait until the following day for their turn to soak and spank the boys. In practice, however, Wet Monday generally devolves into a day-long water fight.

When viewed from this global perspective, our own quirky Easter traditions of decorating and hiding eggs doesn’t seem quite so strange.

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