Whether you live in Shanghai or Nairobi, Easter Sunday is spent exactly the same as in the United States for most people- it’s a day when children run around in their backyards (or indoor malls for kids in Asia) and search for brightly-colored dyed eggs hidden by a giant magical bunny.
However, there are places where the traditional Easter egg hunt isn’t the norm. From giant omelets to church wars to spanking, some people celebrate Easter in odd ways.
These are the twelve most bizarre Easter traditions around the world.
Weird Easter Traditions #1: People Kill Bunnies in New Zealand
I bet the Easter Bunny isn’t welcome here.
New Zealand has a serious problem with rabbits, they’re regarded as crop-destroying animals. The Kiwi government even plans to release a rabbit-killing virus in an attempt to cull the growing wild population.
For the residents of Central Otago district, neither chocolate nor children are involved in their Easter festivities.
A yearly competition dubbed as “The Great Easter Bunny Hunt” recruits hundreds of hunters to kill as many bunnies as possible within 24 hours. The record for most bunnies shot still stands at 23,000.
Weird Easter Traditions #2: They Cook A Giant Omelette In France
From crepes to terrines, the French love eggs and they have over 100 ways to serve them. So it comes as no surprise that the French have an omelet party, except this one’s crafted on a colossal scale.
Known as the Giant Omelette Festival, the villages of Bessieres in Southwest France would gather in the town square to watch members of the Giant Omelette Brotherhood (a.k.a the chefs) cook an omelet as part of Easter celebrations.
Since 1973, the humongous 10 feet-wide dish is made with 5,000 eggs and 110 pounds of bacon, garlic, and onion. Local French media reported that the dish was made with 15,000 eggs when 10,000 people showed up for the event.
Weird Easter Traditions #3: Self-Crucifixion in the Philippines
As the fourth largest Christian country on earth (and third largest Catholic country), “Semana Santa” or Holy Week is celebrated with utmost importance.
Okay, not really.
The truth is people in the archipelago nation celebrates Holy Week in either one of two ways. As a week of religious solemnity or an excuse to have a vacation.
Easter Sunday usually occurs in the first few weeks of summer. Holy week is declared a national holiday- many Filipino families take advantage of the break to enjoy the beach.
Tropical vacations aside, on Good Friday, some religious fanatics commemorate the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ with extreme acts of penitence: Self-crucifixion and self-flagellation.
“Devotees or penitents called magdarame in Kapampangan are willingly crucified in imitation of Jesus Christ’s suffering and death, while related practices are carried wooden crosses, crawling on rough pavement, and self-flagellation. Penitents considered these acts to be mortification of the flesh, and undertake these to ask forgiveness for sins, to fulfill a panatà (Filipino, “vow”), or to express gratitude for favors granted.”
As someone who has witnessed the Easter practice of self-flagellation (I’m too scared to watch the self-crucifixion rites), it’s disturbing to watch topless men whip their backs until blood gushes out and drips onto the hot sizzling pavement, which they’d walk on barefoot.
Few Filipinos agree with this custom. The Philippine Catholic church has continually discouraged this radical practice for decades.
I opted to leave out an actual image of the self-flagellation and self-crucifixion rites due to its disturbing content. If you’re fine with blood and gore, click here to view pictures from Wikimedia Commons.
Weird Easter Tradition #4: Thoughts on Crime and Murder in Norway
The Norwegians indulge in what is possibly the oddest Easter tradition in the world, Påskekrim — literally ‘Easter crime’.
Each year, the people in this tranquil country conjure up visions of death and blood as they read thrilling crime novels in their log cabins.
A traditional Norwegian Easter involves a retreat to a mountain cabin where one must bring three required items.
First, an orange. Second, a Kvikk Lunsj (a four-fingered chocolate bar strikingly similar to Kit-Kat), and crime fiction novels.
If reading isn’t your cup of tea, no worries, Norwegian media televises an abundant supply of crime thrillers and horror films throughout the Easter holiday.
Weird Easter Tradition #5: Pot Smashing in Corfu, Greece
Easter morning starts off with a traditional mass. At 11 am, the church bells ring to mark the end of the liturgy and the residents toss clay pots off their balconies.
Both Catholics and Orthodox Christians join in the festivities.
The noisy custom is thought to celebrate Christ’s Ressurection.
The Corfiots adopted the tradition from the Venetians, who tossed away their old things from the window during New Year’s Day, believing that they’ll receive new items for the next year.
This video from Corfu-Greece shows how ear-splittingly loud the event is. Fast forward the video to 1:50 to watch how the joyful locals fling their earthenware.
I wonder if anyone in the crowd gets injured from all the pottery fragments flying around.
Weird Easter Traditions #6: Rocket Wars in Chios, Greece
Another odd (and extremely dangerous) way the Greeks celebrate Easter is by engaging in Roukettopolemos or ‘rocket war’.
In the town of Vrontados, on the island of Chios, the two rival churches of St. Mark’s and Panaghia Ereithiani are built on hilltops 400 meters from each other.
Parishioners fire thousands of homemade fireworks at the opposition’s belfry. The goal is to hit the opponent church’s bell tower on the other side.
Direct hits to the bell tower are counted the next day to determine the winner.
Both churches and several nearby buildings have to be boarded up and protected with metal sheets for the event. Yikes.
Weird Easter Traditions #7: Hill Burning in Texas
The small Texas town of Fredericksburg has a peculiar tradition: residents dress up as Easter Bunnies, settlers, Indians, and wildflowers then set the surrounding hills ablaze.
As the fire burns, the town lights are turned off as part of the Easter Fire Pageant.
The custom commemorates the Native Americans who are believed to have set the first fire more than 150 years ago. The fire signifies their acceptance of a peace treaty with the German settlers.
According to the New York Times, the fires may have other origins as well. A handbook by the Texas Historical Society points out that the Fredericksburg’s German ancestors have been burning hills for centuries.
Perhaps the practice started as a pagan spring celebration.
Weird Easter Traditions #8: Easter Witches in Sweden
On Maundy Thursday, little girls dress up as påskkärringar (Easter hags). Children would outfit themselves in rags and old clothes, don face paint, grab broomsticks and go door-to-door with asking for treats.
It’s a lot like Halloween, except theirs occur in the spring and Swedish kids go around with a copper kettle instead of a plastic orange pumpkin-shaped pail.
Legend has it that witches, who flew on broomsticks, would visit the legendary meadow of Blåkulla before Easter to frolic with Satan as he held his earthly court.
Just to be clear: Blåkulla is not an actual place. Blåkulla or ‘Blue Hills’ is a fictional island that could only be reached by magical flight.
Weird Easter Traditions #9: The Running Virgin Mary in Sulmona, Italy
The ancient city of Sulmona, in the Abruzzo region of Southern Italy, celebrates Easter with a procession like no other in the world.
The procession of La Madonna Che Scappa (The Dashing Madonna) reenacts the moment when Mary sees her resurrected son Jesus for the first time.
Devotees carry statues of the Risen Christ, Saint John, and Saint Peter to the Church of San Filippo Neri where they would announce the good news of Jesus’ Resurrection.
Anthony Parente of Italianrus.com explains:
“A procession takes place on Easter Sunday and the statue of the risen Christ is placed under one of the arches in Garibaldi Square on the opposite side from San Filippo Neri church.
Then the statues of St. Peter and St. John are taken to San Filippo Neri church so they can tell Mary the good news.
They knock on the door of the church and tell Mary that Jesus has risen, but she does not believe them and refuses to come out. St. John knocks again and tells her that Jesus is waiting at the opposite side of the square.
Mary finally believes St. John and the doors open and the statue is carried out of the church and slowly makes its way across the square. Once it reaches the fountain in the middle Mary sees Jesus and starts to run to him…”
After the announcement, white doves are released as the statue of Madonna of Loreto is dashed to the other side.
Weird Easter Traditions #10: Ancient Cart Pyrotechnics in Florence, Italy
The Greeks are not the only ones who use fireworks to celebrate Easter.
The Florentines practice a folk tradition called Scoppio Del Carro or “Explosion of the Cart”.
On Easter Sunday morning, a 30-foot tall antique cart, which has been in use for over 500 years, is hauled to the Plazza del Duomo (Cathedral Square) by white oxen adorned with spring flowers and herbs.
The cart is escorted by 150 soldiers, musicians, and people dressed in Medieval costumes.
Meanwhile, a priest creates an “Easter fire” by using shards of flint from the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem which is believed to be Christ’s burial place. It is then carried in procession to the cathedral square by VIP members of the town, usually church clerics, city officials, and members of the once prominent Pazzi family.
The moment “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” is sung, the cardinal lights the Columbina, a dove-shaped rocket, with the Easter fire. The mechanical dove is connected to a wire leading outside to the square.
When lit, it speeds through the church, collides with the fireworks, and ignites the ancient cart outside. The pyrotechnical spectacle lasts for about 20 minutes while the bells of Giotto’s campanile ring amid the chaos.
This is a video of Lo Scoppio Carro del Carro a Firenze 2017. Fast forward to 1:45 to watch the Columbina collide with the fireworks.
Weird Easter Traditions #11: Butter Lamb in Poland, Slovenia, and Russia
In Poland, Slovenia, and Russia, Catholics create a butter lamb.
You may be asking, what the heck is a butter lamb?
It is exactly what it sounds like. A “butter lamb” is a lamb-shaped sculpture made entirely out of butter. Supposedly, a butter lamb would signify the start of Easter and spring.
The butter can be shaped into a lamb either by hand or using a lamb-shaped mold.
Weird Easter Traditions #12: Spanking and Ice Water Dousing in the Czech Republic and Slovakia
Women in the Czech Republic and Slovakia hate Easter with good reason: What woman wants to be doused with ice-cold water and smelly perfume?
On Easter Monday, little boys and men follow the ancient (and rather misogynistic) tradition of dousing ice cold water or spritzing cheap perfume on unwilling young women.
Men would get a special Easter whip called a pomlázka in Czech or korbáč in Slovak that they’d use to swat at the girls they like.
In return and as a gesture of gratitude, women give the men dyed eggs, chocolate, or money and are invited to dine with the girl’s family. If the dude is old enough, they are poured a shot (or more) of whiskey.
I imagine that the whipping is merely playful, not in any way painful but Wikipedia proved me wrong.
“The spanking may be painful, but it’s not intended to cause suffering. A legend says that women should be spanked with a whip in order to keep their health, beauty and fertility during the whole next year.”
The good news is that the rascality doesn’t last long. The rule is all Easter shenanigans must end at noon.
This Easter tradition can too much to handle for some. It’s not uncommon to find a little girl hiding under the bed on Wet Monday morning. Some women even choose to leave their homes during Easter and spend the weekend in peace with friends who also find the festivities too aggressive for their liking.