Written by The Leap on 31 / 03 / 2015
Gap Year Advice
It’s that time of year again folks! And whilst most of us will be getting merry in a pair of bunny ears, with chocolate egg wrappers strewn about the place, some may prefer to use the Easter holidays as a time to escape the country and do a bit of gap year travel or some backpacking.
If you fall into the latter category, then why not consider going to one of the destinations below, where you’ll encounter all sorts of weird and wonderful Easter traditions from real-life crucifixions to milk cartons adorned with crime stories (you’ll see what I mean in a bit).
Easter in Australia is pretty much the same as Easter elsewhere in the world; they hold Easter egg hunts, decorate the kitchen table with chicks in straw nests and gorge on chocolate for the entire weekend. However, instead of Easter bunnies, Aussies go hunting for eggs that have been hidden by a bilby, a marsupial native to Australia, whose population has dwindled over the years.
Rabbits, on the other hand, are abundant in the country and have caused considerable environmental damage. There is therefore a strong campaign to give Easter to bilbies and scoff chocolate in the form of these cute long-eared creatures over the holiday period - fancy that!
Easter is a very special time of year in Bermuda and many local traditions and activities colour the weekend. Bermudians celebrate by scoffing hot cross buns and flying homemade kites on Good Friday, a tradition which is said to have come from a Sunday school teacher who used a kite to explain Christ’s ascension to heaven.
Traditionally, these kites are made with colourful tissue paper, wood, metal and string, and are flown across the country. Kite parties are held, where prizes are awarded in several different categories, and groups of friends and families bring picnics.
Norwegians have an interesting tradition for this time of year, which is known as Paaskekrim or ‘Easter crime’. People read detective novels, watch crime series on TV or listen to them on the radio... and milk companies even print crime stories on their cartons.
Nobody quite knows how or why this is the case. Some claim the tradition stems from the violent nature of Christ’s death, whilst others say that Easter and the crime genre simply work well together. Norway also has the world’s longest Easter holiday, with shops and workplaces closing from Maundy Thursday through to the following Tuesday, and schools staying shut for the entire week. England, please take note!
In Germany, large bonfires known as Easter fires are lit on Easter Sunday and Monday. This is an old pagan ritual, symbolising the coming of spring, which came about as peasants believed their fields and homes would be protected as far as the light from the fire reached.
Nowadays, the event is more of a social gathering and excuse to celebrate over a few beers, with the festivities often continuing well into the night at the local pub. Well, it wouldn’t be Germany if they didn’t, would it?
Easter in Sweden is really more like Halloween, as Swedish children dress up in rags and coloured headscarves to look like witches, then go from house to house in the neighbourhood with copper kettles pleading for sweets. This tradition is said to have come from the old belief that witches would fly over Sweden to a mountain in Germany called Blåkulla, where they would ‘party with the devil’ (oo-er).
On their way back, the Swedes would light fires to scare them away, a practice which is still maintained today in the form of bonfires and fireworks.
In Haiti, Easter celebrations are mixed with voodoo and animal sacrifices marked by colorful parades and traditional "rara" music, which is played on bamboo trumpets, maracas, drums and even coffee cans, showing devotion to the spirits.
Haitians certainly take Easter very seriously and the entire week is dedicated to celebrations, with the biggest being on Good Friday, when many embark on a pilgrimage to the village of Souvenance to make their offerings.
Traditional penance processions take place throughout Spanish towns and cities to mark Holy Week, Spain’s most important religious period of the year, whereby Catholic religious brotherhoods don coloured robes and conical hoods as they carry life-size effigies of Christ.
These processions vary from region to region; those in the South tend to be lively and feature marching bands, whereas northern cities host more sombre parades.
Easter Monday in Slovakia is associated with the custom of gently whipping the fairer sex with willow branches and sprinkling water over them - sounds delightful, doesn’t it girls? Apparently though, this is done with the intention of making us healthier and more beautiful, as the custom is said to purify the body and soul.
Despite the fact this predates Christianity, which arrived in Slovakia in the ninth century, it became intertwined with Easter traditions as history passed.
Theme park Tierra Santa is entirely dedicated to telling the story of Jesus, with numerous displays that portray his key life moments and a plastic Jesus, which is resurrected every hour. During the Easter period, actors take it upon themselves to step in and bring the passion to life, carrying the cross through the park and allowing themselves to be crucified (no word of a lie).
Bizarrely, the attraction is a huge hit at this time of year with Latin American tourists, who travel from all across the continent to witness these unusual re-enactments.
Have you got any more to add to the list? Post them in our comments box below!
on 31 / 03 / 2015