9 Things You Didn’t Know About Easter, But Really Should

From dressing up as witches, to parading around the streets of Manhattan, Easter traditions around the world include more than just dyeing eggs.

1. Sweden's Easter witches

In Sweden, and certain parts of Finland, a mini-Halloween takes place on either the Thursday or Saturday before Easter. During this holiday, little girls dressed up in rags, old clothes, and oversized skirts to go door-to-door with a copper kettle looking for candy.

This tradition supposedly came from the old belief that witches would fly to a German mountain the Thursday before Easter to cavort with Satan. And on their way back, the Swedes would light fires to scare them away – a practice honored today with fireworks and bonfires illuminating the land in the days leading up to Sunday.

2. Hot cross buns

Hot cross buns are a sweet pastry consumed on Good Friday, particularly in Great Britain. Years ago, a false report was circulated by a British newspaper that New York had banned hot cross buns from public schools to avoid offending non-Christians.

3. The Sunrise Service

America's first Sunrise Service was held in 1773 at a church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The Sunrise Service is meant to mark the empty tomb that greeted Mary as dawn broke on Easter morning.

4. Easter eggs

The Easter egg appears in many ancient traditions as a symbol for life, or for life's beginnings. In medieval Europe, eggs were oftentimes one of the first foods eaten after the Lenten fast.

Dyeing eggs can be traced back to the early Greek and Syrian Christians, who exchanged crimson eggs "to represent the blood of Christ," according to Priscilla Sawyer and Daniel J. Foley in Easter Garland.

5. Ethiopia's belated Easter celebration

Ethiopian Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter a week to two weeks after the western church. Fasika, or Easter, follows eight weeks of fasting from meat and dairy. Ethiopian Christians participate in an hours-long church service on Easter Eve that ends at 3 a.m.

6. Easter parades

According to an old superstition, wearing new clothing at Easter time meant good luck for the remainder of the year. Beginning in the mid-1800s, upper class New Yorkers exiting the grand churches along Fifth Avenue would parade around in their Sunday best – this tradition is what spawned the present-day Fifth Avenue Easter Parade.

7. Bermuda's Good Friday kites

Legend has it that a Bermudan teacher in need of a simple way to demonstrate the Ascension of Christ into heaven, used a kite decorated with Jesus' image to teach the concept to his students. As a result of his colorful teaching skills, Bermuda is covered with multi-sided kites made of tissue paper and sticks on Good Friday.

8. The burning of Judas

There is a tradition known as the "Burning of the Judas" that is celebrated in several Latin American nations as well as some parts of Greece. During this celebration, an effigy that represents the Apostle that betrayed Jesus is tied up and set on fire.

9. The name "Easter"

The term "Easter" has been linked to Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and new life. Some scholars, however, trace the name of the holiday back to the Latin phrase "hebdomada alba," meaning "white week."

According to tradition, new Christians were baptized into the faith on Easter while wearing white clothes. The phrase then evolved into "eostarum" in Old High German, becoming "Ostern" in modern German and "Easter" in English.

In other languages, the word for Easter is still tied to Passover – the festival that celebrates the exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt. Jesus was crucified shortly after he arrived in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover feast.

[Image courtesy of Pixabay]