Easter is a unique and special time to visit Europe. The blending of folk customs with Christian influnces is strongly apparent and speaks to Europe’s long and varied history. Some European Easter traditions have made their way across the pond to the US, but witnessing them in their country of origin will add an extra layer of cultural experience to your trip and make a fun story to tell those back home!
Award yourself one point for each correct answer.
1) Czech Republic – Pomlázka
On Easter Monday in the Czech Republic, a strange phenomenon can be witnessed. Men and boys take to the streets, armed with willow branches adorned with colourful ribbons and begin to call on the houses of their female friends, relatives and neighbours. When the women answer the door, they are symbolically whipped with the branches (called pomlázka), all in the name of tradition! For visitors unused to the practice, it is certainly a sight to behold!
But what is the meaning behind the custom?
a) To bring good luck for the upcoming Spring and Summer seasons
b) To drive out evil spirits and illnesses
c) No one knows, the meaning has been lost to the sands of time
Image source: Hollókő Húsvéti fesztivál (http://www.holloko.hu)
2) Hungary – Locsolás
In a similar vein to the Czech Republic, Hungarian women also have a vaguely unpleasant start to springtime with the Easter tradition of Locsolás. Still a prevalent custom today (although in urban areas a spritz of perfume is often used to avoid too much mess!) dousing women in water is meant to ensure they go onto become good wives and have many children. It is therefore often seen as a romantic gesture and something women should appreciate!
Can you guess the English term for Locsolás?
3) Šibať and oblievať
If you think Easter is tough for women in Hungary and Czech Republic, spare a thought for the female population of this Central European country who experience both water and whipping in the name of tradition! The customs are believed to purify both body and soul and are the result of Christian teachings mixing with old folk traditions. Luckily things have mellowed in modern times, but in the past women would be thrown into the local river!
Which country whips and waters women at Easter?
4) Germany – Des Gebackene Osterlamm
Fluffy, buttery and decorated with icing sugar, this cake is sold in bakeries throughout Germany in the weeks running up to Easter and also baked at home in specially designed cake-tins. Great importance is placed on finding the perfect Osterlamm as it traditionally sits pride of place at the table during Easter dinner.
What animal is the cake baked in the shape of?
a) A chick
b) A lamb
c) A rabbit
5) Poland – Święconka (Blessing of the Easter Baskets)
One of Poland’s most beloved Easter traditions is the Blessing of the Easter Baskets on Holy Saturday. Lined in white linen and artfully decorated with ribbons and sprigs of boxwood, the baskets contain Easter food, pisanski (decorated eggs) and often a candle and a miniature lamb made out of sugar or plastic. After they have been blessed by the priest and sprinkled with Holy Water, the baskets remain covered with linen and the food uneaten until Easter Sunday.
What Easter Food is put in the baskets?
a) Bread, butter, ham, sausage, salt and pepper
b) Chocolate eggs, candied fruits and cookies
c) Homemade sweet pastries with fruit fillings
6) Austria – Osterfeuers (Easter Fires)
In rural parts of Austria Easter fires are lit the night before Easter Sunday. Traditionally people would gather around the fires to sing and dance and the ritual dates back to pagan times. Nowadays fires are often lit after Mass and close to Churches to signify the coming together of both secular and religious beliefs.
Sometimes brave bystanders may even…
a) Bring meat with them to roast on the fires
b) Set off fireworks
c) Jump over the fires
(1 – B) (2 – C) (3 – A) (4 – B) (5 – A) (6 – C)
0 – 2 Correct Answers:
Time To Go On An Easter Egg Hunt!
Your knowledge of European Easter traditions could use some topping up. Better hop over to Europe sharpish so you can brush up on your Easter traditions through first-hand experience.
3-4 Correct Answers:
Good job – you wouldn’t be surprised to see women whipped in Prague or sprinkled with water in Budapest! Next step is to take part in some European Easter traditions yourself so you can get all the answers right next time!
5-6 Correct Answers:
European Easter Eggspert
Congratulations – you know all about Europe’s weird and wonderful Easter traditions! Reward yourself with a trip so you can impress the locals with your knowledge and understanding!
Words by Jules Sanderson