At its core, the Easter holiday is a religious celebration in which Christians mourn the death of Jesus and celebrate his resurrection. While many Christians still celebrate this true meaning of Easter, many people around the world choose to follow secular traditions during the holiday or explore a blend of religious and secular practice. In the U.S., this could mean Sunday church service followed by a visit from the Easter Bunny, an egg hunt and an entire basket filled with hollow chocolate rabbits.
Of course, the U.S. isn't the only country that celebrates Easter in its own unique way. From South America to Australia and everywhere in between, people find ways to mark this holiday with prayer, remembrance, mourning, joy and merriment. Many of these traditions are hugely devout and may involve recreating the crucifixion of Jesus or following the stations of the cross, but some have evolved well beyond the traditional devotions. While some of these customs—dressing up as witches or throwing water on your lady friends—might sound strange to people in the U.S., it's good to remember that the idea of a giant rabbit dropping off baskets of sweets might sound a little crazy to people in other nations too.
Think you know how Easter is celebrated 'round the world? Prove it with this quiz!
Move over, Easter Bunny! Kids in France believe that these—not bunnies—bring the chocolate on Easter Sunday.
French Easter tradition includes cloche volant, or the flying bells. All the church bells in the nation are said to fly off to Rome on Good Friday, carrying citizens' grief over Jesus' death. When the bells finally ring again on Easter morning, it's a sign that the bells have returned and is often celebrated with chocolate and other sweet treats.
Rabbits are an invasive species in Australia, so this critter brings the eggs at Easter instead.
Since rabbits were introduced to Australia in 1859, they have become a terrible invasive species, so don't start talking about the Easter Bunny to Aussies. Instead, focus on the Easter Bilby, which is inspired by a long-eared Australian marsupial. It looks a lot like a rabbit, and yes, it comes in chocolate form as well.
What do Germans decorate at Easter time in a tradition known as Osterbrunnen?
Germans have long followed the Easter tradition of Osterbrunnen, which involves decorating wells and fountains with eggs, flowers and sprigs of evergreen. This is both in honor of Easter and a way to welcome spring and celebrate water as vital to life. The Osterhase, or Easter Hare, also brings eggs and treats to German kids.
Put away that bunny costume. Here's the right costume to wear when celebrating Easter in Sweden.
Easter in Sweden is mostly a secular holiday based on ancient traditions. Swedish kids dress as witches on the Thursday or Saturday before Easter and go door to door, collecting treats in exchange for simple drawings. The Halloween-like practice is based on the legend that witches fly over the mountain on Thursday to meet Satan, leading locals to build fires to keep the witches from returning.
Name the European country whose capital is Budapest and where Easter is celebrated with a tradition known as sprinkling.
Visiting Hungary on the Monday after Easter? Plan to get wet. This day is known for the practice of sprinkling, where people spray water or perfume on women as a means of cleansing or boosting fertility.
How do people in Ukraine create pysanka, or eggs decorated with folk designs?
Ukranians use a wide variety of methods to decorate eggs for Easter. Pysanka are eggs coated in wax and decorated with folk art, while krashanky are eggs that have been dyed using colors sourced from vegetables. Wax eggs with patterns of dots rather than traditional art are called krapanky, while eggs with glued-on designs are known as nakleyanky.
Do you know why thousands of kids gather on the White House lawn on Easter Monday in the U.S.?
Since 1878, the United States has held an annual Easter Egg Roll on the lawn of the White House in Washington DC. The Easter Monday event, in which kids rolls eggs using spoons, is so popular that participants must win their spot in the event by entering a lottery.
In Poland, people spend Holy Saturday following a tradition known as swieconka, which involves taking these to church so they can be blessed.
Poland's swieconka is the practice of blessing Easter baskets, but these aren't the baskets you might be used to. Instead of chocolate, they are filled with eggs, bread, lamb, salt, ham and other foods, and these baskets are taken to church on Saturday for blessing before they are consumed on Easter Sunday.
Can you name the country which celebrates Easter with a round of traditional Morris Dancing?
Morris Dancing is a folk dance that the English have been practicing since the Middle Ages. Designed to drive away winter and bring good luck for spring, the practice involves wearing bells while using props like hats, sticks, handkerchiefs or swords.
On the Thursday before Easter, the people of Verges, Spain perform the Dansa de la Mort. Can you translate this tradition into English?
Dawn of the Day
Burning of the Cross
Dance of the Dead
You'd be forgiven for confusing the Spanish Dansa de la Mort on the Thursday before Easter with a regular Halloween night in the U.S. During this Easter Dance of the Dead, locals dress up as spooky skeletons and even as Death itself. On Easter Sunday, local children perform their own slightly less scary version of the dance.
What do the citizens of Haux, France cook up using a whole bunch of eggs on the Monday after Easter?
Legend has it then when Napoleon passed through Haux, France with his army back in the 1800s, he loved the local omelettes so much that he requested the locals make him another one the next day. Every Easter Monday since then, the people of Haux have put together a giant 15,000-egg omelette to mark the holiday.
Can you guess what people in Norway are most looking forward to on Easter weekend?
Norwegians mark Easter with a tradition known as Paaskekrimmen (roughly, Easter thriller), which dates back to 1923, when a book publisher advertised a new thriller on the front page of the Easter-weekend newspaper. Since then, people in Norway have celebrated the holiday by reading crime novels and binge-watching TV detective series.
In Sicily, Easter celebration include Abballu de daivuli. Can you translate this tradition to English?
Dance of the Devils
Sicily's Dance of the Devils is a longstanding Easter tradition in which locals dress up as demons or devils, including costumes and grotesque masks. After the dance, they pretend to block worshippers from carrying religious statues into public squares. Spoiler alert: In this tradition, the devils always lose.
Vatican City hosts a major Easter celebration each year, including the Saturday Via Crucis, or Way of the Cross. Which city should you visit if you want to view this event?
Vatican City is located completely within the city of Rome, Italy. As the heart of the Catholic Church, it has its own impressive Easter traditions. This includes the Way of the Cross, in which the Pope visits the stations of the cross, as well as an Easter mass in Saint Peter's Square attended by 80,000 people.
Having Easter dinner with your Russian or Polish friends? Better make sure your butter takes this shape.
Throughout Russia, Poland and much of Eastern Europe, the butter used during Easter dinner takes the shape of a lamb. It could be hand-shaped or formed in a mold, and is a reference to "Lamb of God" in the New Testament. In Russia, this traditions is called barashek iz masla, while the Polish call it baranek wielkanocny.
A holy version of one of these is the major attraction in Jerusalem on the Saturday before Orthodox Easter.
Jerusalem has many renowned traditions associated with the Easter holidays. One of the most celebrated is the Holy Fire, which is held on the Saturday before Orthodox Easter. This event involves using the light from Jesus' tomb to light candles, torches and other flames throughout the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
What do the people of Corfu, Greece throw out of their windows on the Saturday before Easter?
Perhaps inspired by a biblical verse "crush them as a potter's vessels," the people of Corfu, Greece celebrate Easter by throwing clay pots out of their windows and smashing them to the ground. This Easter Saturday tradition may also reference the coming spring, by which people get rid of old pots and make way for new plantings.
The Irish traditionally chow down on Simnel cake on Easter. Can you guess the main ingredient in this dish?
Simnel cakes are so popular on Easter that the Irish sometimes refer to the holiday as Simnel Sunday. Made from two layers of marzipan, or almond paste, the cake is then topped with 11 or 12 marzipan balls to represent the apostles—which may or may not include Judas.
Italians refer to Easter as Pasqua and celebrate the holiday by carrying these items through the streets and into town squares or plazas.
Many Italian cities and towns celebrate the Easter holiday by carrying statues of Jesus or Mary through the streets, or even by reenacting the Crucifixion and Resurrection. On Good Friday night, a major event known as Via Cruis Al Colosseo depicts the stations of the cross as the historic Roman Colosseum.
How do Brazilians and many other Latin Americans celebrate the Easter holiday?
Beat up Judas
In a practice called Quema del Judas or Quema del Ano Viejo, Brazilians and many other Latin Americans celebrate Easter by burning or beating up effigies of Judas. The tradition is highly reminiscent of Guy Fawkes Day in the U.K., and the figures or effigies sometimes take the form of local politicians rather than Judas himself.
Want to celebrate Easter in Bermuda? Better make sure you have one of these.
Back in the day, a missionary who struggled to explain the Resurrection to school children in Bermuda used a kite to illustrate the concept. Ever since then, flying a kite has been an Easter tradition on the island, with a major kite festival taking place at Horeshoe Bay Beach every Good Friday.
One popular French tradition is the Poisson D'Avril. Do you know which animal is involved in this Easter celebration?
Starting around Easter time, French children try to stick paper fish to the backs of adults in a prank known as Poisson d'Avril. If the child succeeds, he's given a chocolate by the adult as a reward. Because of this tradition, chocolate fish are a popular Easter treat in France.
Do you know what the meaning of the "Maundy" in Maundy Thursday refers to?
Maundy refers to the Christian ritual of feet washing and is associated with Christ and the Last Supper. Today, many Christians around the world perform ritualistic foot washing during Holy Weed to celebrate this practice. In fact, Maundy Thursday is a public holiday in many Spanish-speaking countries.
How long is the Easter celebration in Mexico, including both Semana Santa and Pascua?
Easter is a major holiday in Mexico and often involves both religious celebration and time off from work to spend with family and friends. The week leading up to Easter Saturday is known as Semana Santa, while the week from Easter to Epiphany is known as Pascua. Together, these celebrations create a two-week holiday period.
In addition to a beloved fermented fish dish called rakfisk, Norwegians eat around 20 million of these fruits every Easter holiday.
It seems all that winter darkness leaves Norwegians craving some sunshine. Perhaps that's why this Scandinavian nation consumes 20 million oranges over the Easter holiday. A candy known as Kvikk Junsj—basically a Kit-Kat—is also popular at Easter in Norway.
Which city is home to the largest Easter Parade in the United States, held every Easter Sunday since the 1870s?
Since the 1870s, folks in New York City have been dressing up in their Sunday best and strolling down 5th Avenue on Easter Sunday. Today, the parade has evolved into a spectacle on hats, with prizes for the best holiday bonnet.
Easter festivities in Haiti are a mix of Catholic traditions and traditions from this faith.
Haiti blends Christian and Voodoo traditions in a powerful and unique Easter celebration. Locals dress up in colorful clothes and dance to traditional rara music, then head to the celebration at Souvenance Village, where animal sacrifices are made to honor slaves stolen from West Africa and brought to the Americas.
Guess what bizarre tradition the Irish have at Easter time. Hint: It involves a herring.
In Ireland, fish like herring is a popular meal during Lent. To celebrate the end of meat restrictions, the Irish hold mock herring funerals. The tradition not only welcomes a more varied diet but celebrates the economic boon on the way for butchers and meat producers.
How would you show a girl you like her at Easter time in the Czech Republic?
Give her an egg
Bake her a pie
Throw perfume at her
Whip her with a stick
An Easter tradition in the Czech Republic, parts of Slovakia and Hungary involves beating females with branches from willow trees. The gentle whipping with the ribbon-adorned branches is meant to bring the female luck, fertility and good health in the coming year.
In Greece, people celebrate Easter with a sweet bread known as tsoureki. What do they stuff inside each loaf?
Tsoureki is a very popular sweet bread served in Greece on Easter Sunday. In addition to the traditional ingredients like flour, yeast and sugar, each loaf contains an unusual addition: a boiled egg dyed bright red to represent the blood of Christ.
What day are Hot Cross Buns traditionally consumed in England, based on a decree from Queen Elizabeth I herself?
Queen Elizabeth I declared that hot cross buns could only be eaten on Good Friday. Today, they are eaten in England and all over the world all throughout the Easter holiday. A cross cut into the dough or formed with frosting helps to give these sweet buns their name.
Can you guess what people in Florence, Italy blow up on Easter Sunday in a tradition known as Scoppio del Carro?
In a tradition dating back to the 11th century, the people of Florence commemorate Easter with Scoppio del Carro, or the Explosion of the Cart. A cart full of fireworks is pulled through town by a team of oxen, who are removed before the cart is exploded in the town square. The noise and light are meant to bring a good harvest and good health in the coming year.
The tradition of Osterlamm in Germany involves celebrating Easter with a cake baked in this shape.
Inspired by the "Lamb of God" quote from the Bible, Germans traditionally serve a lamb-shaped dessert known as an Osterlamm on Easter. Sprinkled with confectioner's sugar, it's meant to commemorate both Christ and the new season of life that begins each spring.
Visiting Bulgaria? You'll fit right in if you find one of these to smash around on Easter Sunday.
Bulgarians celebrate Easter with a tradition known as tapping, in which friends smash boiled eggs together to see whose egg survives. The winner is said to have good health and prosperity in the year ahead.
Take a stab at how much people in the U.S. spend on candy each Easter.
While Easter brings plenty of great traditions, people in the U.S. use the holiday to buy an awful lot of sweets—around $18 billion worth in 2017 alone. This includes money shelled out for Peeps and chocolate bunnies big and small, solid and hollow. Did you remember to brush your teeth?