In the weeks before Easter Sunday, in many German towns you have the opportunity to visit Ostermarkt, Easter markets. Here, they sell decorated eggs, chocolate candies, stuffed bunnies, and spring ornaments by the dozens, all of which is used in a beloved tradition: decorating the Easter tree. This tree –- called the "Osterbaum" -- is usually arranged from cut branches like pussy willows or other flowering shrubs.
The Kites By the Hundreds
For many Bermudians, Easter means a visit to church, eating codfish cakes for breakfast, and flying kites. According to local legend, the tradition is believed to have started with a Sunday School teacher. To demonstrate Christ's ascension to heaven, he launched a kite -– with a likeness of Christ -- into the air. Today, traditional kites are made with colorful tissue paper, wood, metal, and string. And on Good Friday, thousands are flown in unison to make a spectacular display in the sky: some are made into hexagonal shapes, some are designed to emit a buzzing sound, and some are so huge that they require several grown men to get it aloft in the air.
The Exploding Parade Cart
In the city of Florence, Italy, people kick off their Easter celebrations with a bang (literally). In a 300-year-old tradition called the "Scoppio del Carro," a tiered cart –- decorated with flowers and packed with fireworks -– is ignited to explode in front of a crowd at the Piazza del Duomo. This tradition is rooted in local history: A young nobleman named Pazzino proved his courage in the First Crusade in the Holy Land in 1099. Upon his return, he brought back three flints from the Holy Sepulchre that he received for his acts of bravery. These flints were used to spark and ignite the "Holy Fire" contained within the cart and presented to the Archbishop of Florence. There, the cart explodes, ensuring good luck until next Easter.
In Hungary and Slovakia, it's customary for the men of the town to toss buckets of water over the women. The "sprinkling" as this tradition is called, is believed to bless the women with good healthy, beauty, and fertility. In exchange, the women present the men with colorfully decorated eggs (and sometimes, a kiss).
The Dance of Death
The medieval municipality of Verges in Spain is known for their macabre Easter celebration. On the Thursday before Easter, the traditional La Danza de la Muerte (or "Dance of Death") is performed by men dressed as skeletons. This procession is a theatrical reenactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
The Battle of the Unbreakable Eggs
In Bulgaria, Greece and other European countries, people go head-to-head (or rather, egg-to-egg) in massive egg tapping contests. At the midnight church service before Easter, people will bring their breads and eggs to be blessed by the clergy. When they are brought back home to the dinner table, the real fun begins. In this game, two people knock eggs to see which one cracks and loses. And the person left with the last unbroken egg will be blessed with a year of good luck.
The Easter Witches
For Sweden, Easter celebrations aren't all too different from our own Halloween. In the days leading up to Easter Sunday, small children dress up as Easter witches. The children, disguised in colorful headscarves and rosy cheeks, travel from door to door, collecting candy in exchange for decorated pussy willow branches, which are believed to bless the house for spring.