When it comes to Easter traditions, Aussies are a pretty uninspired bunch. While the 2011 Census says 61 per cent of Australians identify as Christians, for many that faith doesn’t translate into anything more interesting than eating sea creatures on Good Friday, attending church and watching Ben Hur (the original of course). And regardless of spiritual orientations, Australians do love a chockie egg, hot cross buns and a sleep-in on the public holidays.
But it’s hardly innovative is it? Where are our witches? National water fights? Pest control warriors? Maybe it’s time we seek Easter inspiration from around the globe.
Evil witches roam around Easter time
If you find yourself in Finland on Palm Saturday or Sunday you may just meet a witch or two. A widespread tradition originating from religious and pagan customs, young Finnish children dress up as witches with colourful old clothing and paint freckles on their faces to acknowledge the old Western belief that witches roam at Easter time. But these witches are seeking lollies rather than casting spells Tanja Tuominen, a Finnish administration officer based in Australia tells SBS.
“The children look quite adorable and innocent, very friendly witches,” she says. “[After dressing up] they then walk around knocking on the doors of neighbours, friends and relatives, recite a small blessing and hand out decorated willow twigs in exchange for a treat.”
In some parts of the country bonfires are also lit to drive away evil spirits.
Shooting bunnies rather than just eating chocolate ones
Our kiwi mates in Central Otago have a massive cotton-tail pest problem wrecking havoc on the local environment and to native species. Solution? Shoot as many as possible in a 24-hour period. The Great Easter Bunny Hunt, in its 26th year run by the Alexandra Lions Club has seen shooters gathering to unite in reducing the rabbit numbers with around 10,000 killed each year.
An effective but controversial tradition Alexandra Lions Club president Eugene Ferreira told The Guardian it was the most effective way to help control land erosion.
“A lot of people think of bunnies as nice, cute pets, but for farmers they are an absolute menace …. What we are doing is better than spraying poison which kills all wildlife.”
Nothing says “I love you” like soaking that special someone with water
Easter can also be a time to express love by throwing water on your beloved’s head. Śmigus Dyngus is a west Slavic tradition, linked to pagan mythology and the Slavic goddess of fertility. It takes place on Easter Monday and occurs between family members, friends or romantic partners. Generally the males throw water on females on the Easter Monday and females return the favour the day after.
Lucyna Zarkowska, a Polish insurance worker, based in the USA, says the celebration is a strange and demanding way to show your affection:
“[Boys] want to gain your attention, the best way they know – [by] being annoying!”
Zarkowska now remembers the tradition with good humour.
"When I was still living in Poland, the same thing happened every year. I would go outside to go to church. Little did I know there were a few of my guy friends waiting to throw water at me! I would get so angry and curse them out while they ran as fast as they could, laughing.
“I had to change my clothes and tie my hair up because it was unacceptable to arrive at church this way. It made me angry but looking back at it, it's funny!”
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