Easter has always been very fascinating to me, especially because I have never experienced it myself. But this year, hearing my roommates talk about the different ways they celebrate Easter in their cultures, it had me intrigued. The purpose is the same-commemorating the resurrection of Jesus however, the traditions across nations can be quite different. This ranges from a rather extensive celebration in central Ukraine to the more simple and Western one here in the Netherlands.
According to my roommate, Ukraine observes the Eastern Orthodox Easter. So, Easter for them would be celebrated on the first Sunday of May according to the Julian calendar, as opposed to the Gregorian calendar that is used by the rest of the world. They tell me that the days leading up to Easter Sunday are also important. The Sunday prior to Easter they have an event called the “willow tree Sunday” where one takes a branch of a willow tree and taps it on another person to celebrate the triumphant entry of Christ into Jerusalem. On Easter Sunday, they wake up really early in the morning for church. Everyone will take a basket with Easter bread, dip dyed eggs and an assortment of other food such as sausages, wine and candy. They stand in front of the church, waiting for the priest to go around and bless everyone and their baskets. The attendees will also donate either food or money to the church after this before returning back home and eating breakfast with the family. Another tradition they have is that during breakfast everyone will take an egg and they smash their eggs against each other’s and the one who has an unbroken egg at the end is deemed to be the superior in the household.
In the Netherlands Easter is more popular among children, my Dutch roommate said. On Easter Sunday they would have brunch with the family which would include easter bread, French toasts and other items. Following brunch, everyone in the family would gather around and paint eggs together with water paint. A lot of the time, the parents of a neighbourhood will come together and organise an egg hunt for the children at the local park. The eggs are made of chocolate and you get to keep as many as you find. The one who finds the most eggs wins a prize at the end. Many people will also attend church and often the children will perform a play where they would re-enact the resurrection of Jesus.
Finally, my third roommate told me about the Easter she celebrated in Hungary. She said that there are a lot of feasts involved in the days leading up to and following Easter Sunday. Paprika sausages, cooked ham, hard boiled eggs, milk loaf kalács and horseradish are probably the most common meals on the typical Hungarian Easter dinner table. The sweet-toothed are well catered for too as there are also plenty of different desserts such as bejgli or zserbó (layered walnut and jam filled sponge cake covered with dark chocolate). They also have this ancient tradition called sprinkling, where men will sprinkle perfume or cologne on women’s hair symbolising fertility and cleansing. There are also many festivals around town squares during this time.
I am definitely excited for Easter this year since we are planning to bring together little bits and pieces of all of my roommates’ Easter traditions and have our own little unique celebration. So, whichever tradition you follow this Easter, I wish you a blessed and holy Easter!
Author: Protiva Iqbal
Editor: Gwendolyne Cheung
Photographer: Lindsay Bryant