When it comes to strange festivals it’s easy to look beyond the familiar traditions that are the regular timepieces of our own lives. Yet often the weirdest celebrations are right under our furry, pink little noses…
We have all just survived another year it so lets to turn our eye to the Christian calendar’s most important celebration, Easter!
DID YOU KNOW? Easter technically lasts for 50 days from Easter Sunday until Pentacost Sunday. And this is after the almost 6 weeks of Lent that occur prior to Easter.
AND YOU SHOULD KNOW: Easter Sunday is the day of the Resurrection, three days after Good Friday, which wasn’t all that good for Jesus at all, but then Bad Friday hardly sounds like a fun bank holiday.
In some parts of the Czech Republic and Slovakia it seems like it is the women who are more likely to be hiding than the eggs. For Easter men are allowed to fashion whips, often out of willow, in order to beat the women-folk of the town.
The whipping is supposed to keep the women beautiful and healthy for the coming year. And, of course, hitting them with stick is the unlikely method of imparting such good will.
While in Poland Baranek Wielkanocny is Polish for Butter Lamb. Which is NOT like Butter Chicken, but rather a lamb sculptured entirely out of butter. And waste-not-want-not, this lamb will be eaten. The most appropriate way of doing so is tail first, leaving the slowly dissolving lamb head until last…
If you happen to be on the Greek island of Corfu on Easter Saturday, you may wish to be wearing a hard hat. For reasons lost to time, it is an Easter tradition to throw your crockery out the window. And no one is really sure why. It may be the exuberance of having survived the strictures of Lent (but if you’re no longer fasting you’re going to need that plate…), or to celebrate the changing seasons (by having to change all your tableware) or as a rejection of evil (throwing out the tea-set your mother-in-law gave you for your wedding).
WEASTER or WESTERN EASTER
In France church bells ring every day of the year with the exception of the three main days of Easter. This is because on Good Fridayall the bells in the land fly to Rome (Easyjet €79 return) to receive a blessing. They then fly back to their bell-towers on Easter Sunday, dropping chocolate and eggs in people’s gardens at a respectable time of the morning so that after midday children can go and hunt for their Easter surprises. The bells, having done their job for chocolate sellers everywhere, then toll joyously for the Resurrection.
Well done the French for creating a tradition that allows parents to roll out of bed, have a long lazy brunch, and still fulfil their traditional obligations. Bravo!
Yet on the scale of weird these have nothing on western society’s strangest and most pervasive Easter tradition: the Easter Bunny. Why is a rabbit delivering chickens eggs? Who gives them to him; does he steal them? And how exactly does he keep getting into my house?!
FETE DES OEUFS – FARMYARD FEASTDAY – MONTROTTIER, FRANCE
Which leads me to Easter Sunday 2014 and the third in European Bazaar’s calendar of strange festivals; the very aptly named Fete des Oeufs, or Fete of Eggs.
West of Lyon in south-eastern France lies the tiny rural hamlet of Montrottier. Once you’ve escaped the main roads in favour of winding, unfolding laneways, you’ll discover a deliriously picturesque region of town-flecked hills and more shades of green than you can poke a proverbial stick at.
Perched atop one of these postcard hills sits Montrottier, a clutter of golden-stone houses overseen by the benevolent shadow of the town’s church tower. Up close, Montrottier is equally charming with narrow sweeping streets spiralling to the top of the hill, with little lanes and stairways that zig and zag through the town like the cracks in an eggshell.
The front of most houses are decorated with large crepe paper blossoms as well as images or the stuffed likenesses of chickens everywhere. There are chickens everywhere; from the cartoon strip of a highly sexualised chook meeting the rooster of her dreams writ large above the public toilets, to the parachuting chickens that have been strung above the road, Montrottier has obviously gone egg-crazy.
For this little town of 1500 people, the Fete des Oeufs is the biggest event on the local calendar and on a good year can attract 10,000 people to its streets. That’s because Montrottier is home to one of Europe’s, if not one of the world’s, largest Easter Egg Hunts!
We’re lucky enough to meet the lovely Laura, a Montrottier local for whom the fete has been a lifelong involvement, and she generously gives us the tour of the town. She tells us that this is the 51st year the egg hunt has been run and that 40,000 real chicken eggs are used, half of which were hidden during the night around the town and the surrounding fields and byways.
The other 20,000 eggs will be used to feed the masses and we are led into one of the two kitchens charged with feeding the influx of people – over the course of the day they will make 900 meals all using locally produced ingredients. There we get to see two large buckets of omelette mixture – each containing 360 eggs that some poor guy has had to crack individually – being mixed ingeniously by power-drill.
The town also puts on free entertainment for children from donkey rides to bee hive presentations. Over 200 volunteers from the town offer up their time to run stalls and take games, while the football club mans the BBQs and beer taps.
There is also a parade with the obligatory marching band and floats pulled by a local farmer’s tractor. But blink and you’ll miss it; which is why they have the parade twice during the day!
All of the money raised by volunteer stalls is pooled by the organising committee and then given out during the year to the various clubs and societies to use, ie. to pay for the football club to purchase their footballs.
Even the local retirees are put to work during the year to make the decorations that will adorn the town.
One thing noticeably absent from the day is, ironically, religion. The secular French have excised all iconography or Christian symbolism from the celebration, focusing on the joy of the hunt and the love of family and community. One look at this chook-bedecked town and you’d be fair to assume that a chicken cult had reclaimed Easter as its own.
If you enjoy Community Spirit in place of the Holy Spirit, and seeing disgruntled children dressed up as eggs brings you joy, then Fete des Oeufs is a family-friendly festival you can have faith in.
Check out more photos below.
Fete des Oeufs happens on Easter Sunday every year
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