On the Thursday evening before Easter Day, the church bells in France fall silent. Adults tell the children that the bells have flown off to Rome to visit to the Pope and to collect the Easter eggs. The bells remain silent (absent) on Friday and Saturday, and then on Easter Sunday they return to the churches, droppings the eggs off along the way, and ring out over the country. They are known as “Les Cloches Volants” or the flying bells.
One game that is played on this day is to throw and catch a raw egg. If you drop and break your egg you are out, and the winner is the last person left with their egg still intact.
As Poisson d’avril is so close to Easter, chocolate fish as well as chocolate eggs are included in the sweet treats at his time.
Related posts: Easter in England , Christmas in France , Easter in Germany , Easter in Switzerland
Different regions of Switzerland have different traditions, for example in one region in the south of Switzerland they perform a passion play on the Thursday before Easter Day. In another region, in the west of the country there is a “weeping women parade” where the women carry red cushions with nails and a crown of thorns.
It is the cuckoo who brings the Easter eggs in Switzerland, and so in the run up to the festival, the shops have displays of baskets of eggs and cuckoos.
Easter Day itself begins with an Easter egg hunt for children, with a prize for the person who finds the most eggs.
Easter Monday brings another game: the adults have to try to break the children’s decorated eggs with a 20 cent coin. If they succeed, they get to keep the egg and the money, but if they lose the child gets the 20 cents.
Related posts: Easter in England, Easter in Germany, Easter in France
As with many things in Germany, different regions have different traditions for Easter. In some regions it’s the Easter fox who delivers the chocolate eggs; in others it’s the Easter rooster or the Easter stork. However the Österhase (the Easter hare or Easter bunny) is slowly taking over all of the regions.
In the north of the country, fires are lit to celebrate the end of the cold winter months and to welcome spring. They are lit on the Saturday night and kept burning until the Sunday morning. This stems from a Pagan tradition which was believed to keep away sickness.
Another Germany Easter tradition is the Easter egg tree. It’s exactly what it sounds like – a tree with decorated eggs hanging from it. Sometimes, rather than decorating a whole tree, a twig in a vase is used.
A typical Easter meal would be a lamb dish, followed by a cream-filled cake in the shape of lamb.
Related posts: Easter in England, Easter in France, Easter in Switzerland
The word shrove comes from the Old English word shrive meaning penance. It’s the day before Ash Wednesday which is the first day of Lent a time of fasting. The date changes each year as it is dependent on the lunar cycle but it occurs 47 days before Easter Sunday.
Originally Shrove Tuesday was the day for using up all the eggs, butter and sugar left in the house before doing without during Lent. Now also known as Pancake Day, the day is a good excuse for eating pancakes! Traditional fillings are sugar and lemon juice, but you can go as plain or as exotic as you like. My personal favourite is banana and chocolate sauce, with just a touch of whipped cream on top!
The “proper” way to cook a pancake is to fry one side, and then to toss it in the air so that it flips over and catch it back in the pan to fry the other side. This method has led to pancake races where the competitors have to run and toss a pancake at the same time. First to cross the finish line with their pancake still intact and in the pan is the winner!
Hogmanay is the Scots word for the last day of the year. It’s an unusual word and the etymology is uncertain, but the first written record of it dates back to 1604.
Historically, in Scotland New Year was more important than Christmas, which people were discouraged (at times even banned) from celebrating. The new year therefore, was the main time for getting together with family and exchanging gifts.
There are many customs associated with Hogmanay. The most famous of these is one which has been adopted by much of the English-speaking world, and that is to link hands at midnight and sing Auld Lang Syne.
Another important tradition is “first footing”. The first person to cross your threshold after midnight is said to indicate your luck for the rest of the Year. Tall, dark men are preferred, probably dating back to the times of the Viking invasions when a blonde man knocking your door wouldn’t have been a sign of good things to come!
The first-footer should bring gifts of coal for the fire, shortbread and whisky to toast the new year.