By Lindsay Cusworth
Wild Easter egg hunts with baskets of colorful candy, confetti- filled street parades and the Easter Bunny are all traditions that are popular in American culture.
Children spend the night before Easter anticipating the Easter Bunny”s visit, hoping for candy in all colors, tastes and shapes.
According to the National Confectioners Association, 90 million chocolate Easter bunnies and 16 billion jellybeans are produced each year in preparation for Easter.
The United States and other countries around the world have many Easter traditions that make its culture unique.
In Argentina they celebrate Carnival, where people gather in the streets to dance together and sing folksongs. Women traditionally wear ruffled skirts and colorful ponchos. When the celebration comes to a close, a rag doll representing the spirit of Carnival is buried as a symbol of the end.
In Ireland, it is common to clean the house inside and out, symbolizing a new beginning. The people spend their Easter Sunday dancing in the streets. The dancers compete for the prize of a cake.
Easter in Eastern European culture typically revolves around Lent. AnnMarie Hamar, of the Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages, was raised Russian Orthodox by parents from Russia and the Ukraine.
“For Easter we observed Lent and during that time we were supposed to be focused on the Savior”s life,” Hamar said. “We had to give something up for 40 days. We weren”t allowed to have certain kinds of foods. No junk food. No candy. And when we were older we weren”t allowed to date, go to the movies or go to parties.”
During Lent, every participant must give up something they enjoy, typically a food or an activity, and they must add something, perhaps sincere prayer or charity, that will bring them closer with God. On Easter Sunday the priest blesses baskets of people”s food, whether meat, cheese or chocolate, in preparation for their Easter meal.
“When we had our meal on Easter Sunday we would pass around a plate with an egg on it,” Hamar said. “The egg would be chopped up in pieces and the plate would be passed around the table. When you passed the plate you said, “Christ is risen,” and when you took the plate you said, “Indeed he is risen.”
In Germany, Easter is celebrated with an egg tree. Small tree branches are cut and put into a vase. The tree is decorated with real eggs that are hollow and are painted with intricate designs. The egg ornaments can be purchased but often times they are hand-crafted together as a family.
“When we colored our Easter eggs, we usually did it with natural colors,” said Irene Stelter, a native German. “We boiled the beets and when the water was red we would dye the eggs.”
Today the Easter eggs are prepared more often with dye from chemicals and children all over Germany look forward to an Easter egg hunt. Easter Sunday is generally celebrated with a large, traditional, German meal, often either lamb or pork roast with cabbage and potatoes.
In Poland, eggs are also a part of Easter tradition. People color eggs and take them to church to have them consecrated by the priest at mass. Easter breakfast is an elaborate meal that is prepared before mass and when church ends, the blessed eggs are added to the feast.
“On the Monday after Easter the Poles observe smigus dingus, or the pouring of water,” said Walter Whipple, professor of Polish. “Any container will do; a squirt gun, a hose or a bucket, a glass or a jar, anything that will hold water. They try to catch each other off guard. And then, when least expected, they will shout “smigus dingus” and douse one another with water. People take this in good humor, and don”t seem to mind getting completely drenched. It”s part of their tradition.”
The Finnish celebrate with a dessert called m?mmi. It is a sweet, black dessert, made of various types of flour, and is eaten with cream and sugar.
“I would say that we have fairly global customs,” said Sirpa Kosonen, a native from Finland. “We eat lamb as the main course and then we paint and eat eggs, coloring them by boiling onion peels that make them yellow.”
This Sunday people from all over the world will gather together in celebration of Easter. Each culture will practice its own Easter traditions, but one similarity around the world will be the coming together of family and friends for celebration.