Happy Easter! – witches, egg fights and water buckets

Apr 13, 2017 | Miscellaneous, World events


“Easter Sprinkling” by Mihály Munkácsy

It’s amazing how quickly time flies! I have just written a blog post about Christmas traditions and now it’s already time to celebrate Easter.

Although there are similarities in the way Easter is observed in most countries, and eggs, rabbits and flowers are featured in traditions one way or another, there are some curious customs that might need some extra explanation.

In Finland, “kids go from door to door dressed up as witches carrying decorated willow twigs (‘vitsa’ which they decorate themselves)”, explains Tytti, our in-house Finnish expert. “It’s a bit like what kids do at Halloween; they give the willow twigs away and in return people give them treats.”

This tradition has double roots: one is an Orthodox Russian custom in which birch twigs represented palm branches laid in front of Jesus on Palm Sunday, and the other one stems from ridiculing the Swedish and Western Finnish belief that around Easter time witches could be loitering outside.

If you happen to be in Bulgaria for Easter, you should try and participate in an egg fight. Yes, you read it right, egg fight. People use painted hard-boiled eggs and fight by tapping their tops together. If your egg cracks, you lose! The last person standing with an unbroken egg shell will be pronounced the winner and will enjoy a whole year of good luck and health. The very first egg of the year is painted red that symbolises Jesus’ blood and it’s sometimes baked into the traditional Easter bread called “козунак” (“kozunak”).

Another strange European custom is the Hungarian “locsolkodás” (literally “sprinkling”). Back in the days, in rural areas boys would dump a bucket of water on girls or threw them in a tub after chanting a little poem asking for permission “to sprinkle”, so that the girls don’t “wither away”. Nowadays the bucket of water is usually substituted with cologne or perfume (so girls most often end up rather smelly by the end of the day!). In exchange for the sprinkling, they are expected to give a painted egg, chocolate or even money to the gallant boys.

What strange Easter traditions do you have in your country?