In Britain, Easter means Easter egg hunts, hot cross buns and perhaps a spot of maypole dancing, while in South Africa it may be the last chance for a lekker braai before winter.
People around the world have different ways of celebrating Easter, some vested in religious traditions and others in pre-Christian pagan customs.
Bunnies, fireworks, witches, skeletons and some water – it’s Easter
In the United States, for example, the Easter Bunny delivers decorated eggs and candy. It’s thought the custom was brought to America in the 1700s by German immigrants who believed that rabbits and eggs symbolised fertility and rebirth.
Sue Petrie, British Airways’ trade commercial manager for Southern Africa, shares some fascinating traditions celebrated in destinations all over the world:
In Florence, Easter is celebrated with a bang
The Fiorentinos practise a 350-year old Easter tradition meant to ensure a good harvest. It’s called Scoppio del Carro or ‘the explosion of the cart’. Residents in colourful 15th century costumes pull an ornate cart packed with fireworks thought the streets to the Duomo, where, during the Easter mass, the Archbishop lights the fuse.
In the town of Verges in Spain the locals are a little more macabre
They commemorate Holy Thursday with the Dansa de la Mort or ‘Death Dance’. Participants dress up as skeletons to take part in a night-time procession through the streets, where they re-enact scenes from the Passion. The last skeletons carry a box of ashes.
If you’re in Helsinki, expect knee-high witches to accost you demanding treats
Finnish children dress up as witches, complete with broomsticks and other witchish accoutrements. If sweets and chocolates don’t work, bonfires are supposed to scare the little witches away.
You can have a smashing time in Corfu on Easter Saturday
Here people throw earthenware out of their windows, breaking it on the street. There are different schools of thought as to where the tradition originated. Some believe it was a Venetian custom to throw out old pottery to symbolise renewal. Others think the old pots were broken in spring, so the next harvest could be gathered in new pots.
Even if sunny spring weather is predicted in Warsaw, if you’re there on Easter Monday you’d be advised to take a raincoat or umbrella.
Across Poland young boys try to wet girls and each other with buckets of water, water guns, hoses or anything else they can think of. Called Smigus-dyngus, tradition has it that girls who get drenched will be married within the year. The custom is said to date back to Prince Mieszko’s baptism on Easter Monday 966 AD.
“Visiting somewhere during a holiday, festivity, carnival or other cultural event and immersing yourself in local culture and tradition makes the trip much more enjoyable and memorable,” says Sue.
British Airways flies twice a day to London from Johannesburg and has daily flights from Cape Town. It also offers three flights a week from Durban to London. Together with oneworld partners Vueling and Iberia it provides extensive, convenient connections to all major European cities. With its partner American Airlines, it serves 135 destinations in North America. For more information about these destinations, flights, accommodation, car hire and special offers visit www.britishairways.com