Easter Customs from around the World
The word "Easter" conjures up images of brightly dyed eggs, baskets filled with candy and teenagers looking for extra cash dressed up in giant bunny costumes so that Mommy and Daddy can get Junior's picture taken with the "Easter Bunny". Unless of course, you are my daughter. She tried to punch the Easter Bunny, and yes, there is photographic evidence of this floating around somewhere; I kid you not. But I digress...
Gigantic bunnies and fist-waving children aside, Easter is a time of the year laden with many varying traditions from around the world. Grab a Peep and a seat and let's take a gander at some of them, shall we?
Our first stop is Finland, which at first glance made me think of our own custom of Halloween. It seems the children here hold to the custom of blackening their faces with soot and masking themselves with scarves, going around the street armed with coffee pots and willow twigs to beg for treats. Bonfires are lit to ward off the witches that are believed to roam the Earth on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Pretty spooky business!
Poland has the tradition of Smingus-Dyngus. Come on, folks, you've got to love a tradition with a name like that! Basically, on Easter Monday, boys are given the 'green light' to drench anyone they see in any manner they can, be it buckets of water, squirt guns, you name it. But fear not, ladies. Belief has it, that if a girl gets drenched by virtue of Smingus-Dyngus, she will be wed within the year.
In the small town of Haux, France, chickens and cooks deserve extra pay during the Easter season because they work double-time. Thanks to Napoleon's love for the way his omelet was prepared and his order that his entire army be served them the next day, the tradition grew over the years into one that still is upheld to this day. Every year, on Easter Monday, a giant omelet containing more than 4,500 eggs which can feed more than 1,000 people, is served up in the town square to commemorate the auspicious occasion.
I realize that the French are snobs when it comes to the food scene and consider their cuisine the utmost, but even for a self-proclaimed foodie like myself, that is a bit of overkill.
Duck!!!! It's Pot Throwing day in the island of Corfu, Greece. Every Holy Saturday morning, pots, pans, and various other earthenware are thrown out of the windows onto the streets below, ala' the Venetians who have the custom on New Year's Day of throwing out all of their old items. And since Easter is seen as 'the' celebration of Spring and Spring is 'the' season of renewal-well, makes sense to me.
More water sports abound in Hungary, who hold to the tradition of 'sprinkling'. On Easter Monday (also known as Ducking Monday, incidentally), boys take the opportunity to go around and spray perfume or perfumed water on those of the female persuasion. I suppose it beats the days when the common practice was to pour a bucket of water over their heads! Nowadays, a sprinkle or a peck will suffice.
Last but certainly not least, let us turn our attention to the country of our own Hogwarts--the United Kingdom where they hold to the tradition of giving out Maundy Money on Maundy Thursday. When it was first introduced centuries ago, the reigning King or Queen would wash the feet of a few poor people; the number of people corresponding to the monarch's age. It has since evolved into the modern (and much more sanitary) practice of the Queen (or ruling Monarch) carrying a small bouquet of sweet herbs and giving out little drawstring purses of coins to a few chosen men and women. Every other year it is held at Westminster Abbey; on the alternate years it takes place at various cathedrals throughout the kingdom. It sounds all so--British!!
Whew! All of that traveling has made me quite famished! Like most holidays, food plays an integral part of the Easter Celebration. Here are a few of my own personal favorite recipes. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
Moroccan-Style Roast Lamb
- 3- 3 1/2 lb. leg of lamb
- 3 tbsp butter
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1/4 tsp paprika
- pinch of cayenne pepper
- fresh coriander, to garnish
- Trim the lamb of excess fat and make several shallow diagonal cuts with the meat.
- Blend together the butter, garlic, cumin, paprika, cayenne, pepper, and salt, and spread over the surface of the lamb, pressing mixture into the sides. Set aside for a minimum of 2 hours.. (I usually try to do it the night before, but if you are crunched for time, 2 hours will suffice.).
- Preheat the oven to 220 C/425 F/Gas 7. Place the meat in a lare roasting tin and cook for 15 minutes. (The butter will burn, but that's okay; trust me. Don't freak! The resulting taste is delicious.) Reduce the oven temperature to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4 and continue cooking for 1 1/2-2 hours, until the meat is well cooked, basting several times with the meat juices.
- Place the cooked meat on a serving plate and serve immediately; garnishing with fresh coriander.
Honey-Rosemary Roasted Potatoes
- 4 medium-large potatoes (I usually leave the skin on; but you can choose to peel them if you prefer. For this, I would recommend russets or butter golds, as they hold up well to roasting).
- fresh or dried (I prefer fresh) rosemary (If using fresh, chop it), approx 3 tbsp.
- olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 350 F/180 C/Gas 4. Cut the potatoes into chunks, drizzle them with olive oil and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and add rosemary, again tossing to coat evenly. Lay potatoes on baking dish and let cook for approximately 50 minutes. DO NOT ADD HONEY YET OR IT WILL BURN. (Trust me on this!)
- After 50 minutes, drizzle the potatoes with honey, more or less to taste depending on your personal 'sweet' factor. I usually go for approximately 1 tbsp. Stick back in the oven for 10 minutes to let honey carmellze and then serve.