Whips, Water and Murder Most Foul
Easter is really weird, when you think about it. What started as a religious celebration centred on torture and resurrection has been co-opted by popular culture and adapted to tell the story of an anthropomorphised rabbit that breaks into your house and hides chocolate eggs in your underwear drawer.
There is no doubt that Easter is delicious, wherever you are in the world. But it makes no sense whatsoever.
It gets even worse when you look beyond the UK. Our traditions are just the tip of the Easter iceberg. Some countries get downright freaky with it.
This makes it our duty to round up some weird Easter traditions and list them below accompanied by sarcastic, banal commentary. Enjoy!
Where: Czech Republic and Slovakia
It wouldn’t be Easter without a little light bondage, right? In some parts of the Czech Republic and Slovakia it’s an Easter Monday custom for women to dress up in traditional clothes and for men to whip them.
The whip is forged from up to 24 willow rods and can be up to two metres long. It’s decorated with bright ribbons, which is a bit like drawing a smiley face on a bazooka.
The aim is not to hurt the women (although it almost certainly does). The practice is based on a legend which insists a good spanking will keep women healthy, beautiful, and fertile until the following Easter. It also allows men to express their romantic interest in a woman. Remember when you’d punch the boy or girl you fancied at school? It’s like that. But with a whip.
Throwing water at women
Where: Hungary, Slovakia, Serbia
If you’re a woman in these parts of Europe around Easter time, you might want to lie low for a while. If you’re not getting whipped, you’re getting wet.
In some communities Easter Monday is known as ‘Watering Monday.’ Throughout the day, men visit other families to sprinkle water or perfume over the women and girls of the household. As if that wasn’t cheeky enough, the man gets rewarded with an Easter egg. Good deal for him. Not so much for everybody else.
This tradition also used to be widespread in Poland, but in recent years has evolved into a big water fight, which sounds a lot more fun all around.
Murder mystery weekend
If the rise of Scandi-drama on TV has taught us anything (apart from how to wear excellent jumpers and successfully plan a grisly slaying), it’s that the people of Norway love a good murder mystery.
At Easter time the usual eggs and bunnies are accompanied by all major television channels showing crime and detective shows, magazines printing ‘whodunit’ stories, and even milk cartons featuring short mystery stories on their sides.
Most shops and other businesses close for five straight days over Easter, so there’s plenty of time to solve a murder or two. We think it was the Easter bunny in the kitchen with a stale hot cross bun.
Where: Cyprus, Germany
There are few better ways to celebrate something you love than by setting fire to it. In both Cyprus and northern Germany it’s traditional to build huge fires over Easter weekend, usually in shared public spaces.
In Germany, as you might expect, this is quite closely regulated for safety reasons. Meanwhile, in Cyprus, young boys are sent out into the streets to collect as much scrap wood as they can in order to build the biggest fire in the neighbourhood.
This inevitably results in people fighting in the street over fuel while roaring fires burn in the background. This is what Easter would be like in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.
Rabbits are not very popular in Australia. After being introduced by startlingly incompetent hunters in the 18th century, the familiar Easter mascot became something of an environmental disaster for the land down under.
Bilbys, on the other hand, are native, endangered, and really bloody cute. To raise awareness of their plight, and to stick it to the invading hordes of rabbits, chocolate bilbys take centre stage at Easter time. Hopefully this won’t encourage anybody to eat the real thing.