Right after Christmas is Easter the most important holiday in Austria. Usually a time to spend with your loved ones at home. Schools are off for more than one week and offices close for a long weekend starting on Good Friday (14. April). Like in many other countries we celebrate with coloured Easter eggs that are often made at home, although you’ll also find lots of Easter markets were you can find beautifully hand painted ones. Many traditional families break lent on Easter Sunday with an Easter Ham, special kind of pastries, like “Reindling”, and lots of food. It is not uncommon to be in the state of “food coma” on Easter Sunday. Little kids are told that the Easter Bunny hides presents for them, so you’ll find many small children looking for presents all around the house and gardens. The hardboiled, coloured eggs are also used for another tradition called “Eierpecken”. 2 people each choose an egg and smash top or bottom of the eggs together. The egg that remains unbroken, wins. It is a very popular game that old and young play and it can get quite competitive.
Easter traditions in Bulgaria are a derivative of the Eastern Orthodox Church rituals. The Holy Week starts on Palm Sunday or Tsvetnitsa (Flower Day – all people named after flowers or trees celebrate Name Day) and leads up to the Great Day (Velikden). Easter eggs in Bulgaria are traditionally dyed on Holy Thursday. The first egg is colored red and is kept in the home until the following Easter to bring luck. Many people visit the church at midnight on Easter Sunday for the mass, after which they walk around the church three times following the priest with lit candles in hand. On Easter Sunday the families gather for a lunch with traditional meals – “kozunak”, a specially decorated sweet bread, lamb, and the colored eggs. The ritual of tapping the eggs takes place just before the Easter lunch begins. The winner is the one whose egg is left unbroken (“borak”). The winning egg is kept until next Easter and is a sign of good luck.
The preparation for the Easter in Belarus starts long before the holidays. People bake cakes and “paskha” for the Easter meal, they color eggs checking their strength before eating. We have got such an Easter game – every person takes an egg and taps the egg with someone else’s egg. The person with the unbroken egg is the winner and the egg emerges as the strongest. During this holiday, you may witness a really fascinating performance – All-night vigil in a church and Cross Procession.
In many countries, including Croatia, there is a tradition of coloring Easter eggs (pisanica) by using, for example, onion skin, beetroot or spinach, while they can be decorated with reed as well. A widely spread custom is that small children are told the Easter rabbit brings them gifts. One more interesting custom is the so called “eggs fighting” – the eggs are hit against each other, and the one whose egg is not broken at the end of the competition wins. In the past, people in Croatian villages used to gather and sing Easter songs around bonfire (krijes) which symbolized Christ.
In Macedonia it is said that the Easter holiday is the biggest holiday of all. The tradition says that the first three eggs are dyed with red color by the oldest woman in the family, early morning on Great Thursday before the sun rises. The first egg is for God and it is thought that has protecting power, so it is placed next to an icon until next Easter. Great Friday is day for spiritual cleaning and people go to churches where they pass under specially decorated table that symbolizes Jesus Christs’ grave. On Saturday evening people gather in front of churches, carrying an egg and a candle. On Sunday, after the religious 40 days lent, each house puts on the table abundant food which includes green lettuce, lamb meat, lamb soup, sweet bread (milibrod) and a cake.
In Serbia, Easter means lots of traditions: spending time with your loved ones, fasting, colouring eggs and praying. For some, it starts 40 days before the holiday with a fast that lasts until Easter itself. During that period, observant members of the Orthodox church don’t eat animal products. The period is intended to purify Christians’ bodies and minds. That is how they prepare themselves for the communion that takes place on the morning of Easter Sunday. On Easter, in Serbia, it is customary to get out of bed early, but not to go to bed before midnight. If you were to go to sleep before the clock strikes midnight, you would be sleepy and lazy until next Easter. The second day of Easter people in Serbia go to cemeteries where they leave a single red egg on each grave so that even those who passed away could enjoy the resurrection of Christ. This day is also called “Vodeni ponedeljak” (meaning Watery Monday) because boys and young men throw water on girls and young women.
The Slovenian name for Easter is Velika noč and it means »Great Night«. It also means a great holiday for eating after weeks of fasting. Even though not all of us are really fasting. Before Easter Sunday Christians in Slovenia usually bring a basket filled with goodies for blessing to the church. This is called »žegen«. In our typical Slovenian basket, you are going to find: ham, bread, horseradish, a special Slovenian cake called Potica (wallnut cake) and colourful decorated eggs. Goodies from the Basket await the traditional table, when the whole family have traditional Easter Breakfast the next day. Coloured eggs are a long-lasting tradition of the Slovenians. Pisanice from Bela Krajina are known as special kind because of their intricate patterns and great example of Slovenian folk art. On the other hand, dyeing and decorating eggs is a family tradition and many of techniques are being used from red onion skins, spinach leaves, nettle, dandelion, saffron, elderberry flowers and other natural substances.