Easter customs in Belgium|
For most young people the period of Easter means. Two weeks of holidays that are very welcome in the
middle of the semester. Some go on a vacation, take the opportunity to go
skiing, or they work or study. The religious side is only far in the background. I don't know anyone who practices the Great Fast or goes to special
ceremonies before Easter. The majority of the Belgians are catholic, and we use
to learn about the religious traditions at school. On Ash Wednesday, for
instance, all the toddlers went to church to confess, after which the priest
gave us the black cross on our forehead. We were told that it would never
disappear again if we would tell a lie. The teachers read the stories about
Jesus' life from the children bible. During the breaks we got apples instead of
the usual sweets; those were collected in a box on the teachers' desk. After
confirmation though, catholic education ends. For me a religiously very calm
As most old people, my
grand-grandparents strongly believed and put the old traditions strictly into
practice. They didn't eat meat or animal products the forty days before Easter
and followed the ceremonies.
In those days,
families just go to the celebration ceremony on Easter. It's important to look
really perfect on this day. Keep in mind that the whole village will discuss
and evaluate your outfit in detail. We even have an expression 'op z'n paasbest
zijn'; to look as perfect as on Easter' in free translation. Afterwards we
visit the grandparents for a huge lunch. Except for sugar bread, really soft
and sweet with pieces of colored dried fruits inside, there is no traditional
food for Easter. The idea is just having the meal together. The whole day we
get a lot of good food. My grandma considers it her personal task to stuff us
so full with food that we won't be able to leave her house anymore. In families
with young children, we have the tradition of egg picking. Chocolate eggs are
hidden in the garden and when the children find out, they grab a basket and
stroll through the garden to collect them as soon as possible. It's very
exciting, also for the parents that hide them. Who's going to find a totally
disgusting egg that remained in the bushes last year? The children believe that
the church bells dropped the eggs after their journey to Rome in order to get the eggs from the pope. They
leave on White Thursday from the Belgian towers and we don't hear them ringing
till Easter Sunday when they have returned. Of course they get a little help
from the Easter Bunny from the ground level. One very interesting theory about
how the pope gets the eggs is the 'Paaskip'. The pope is the proud owner of
this Easter Chicken that produces chocolate eggs in huge quantities for whole Europe. The fuel for this delicate process is 'Power
kernels', which are evolutionary related to cacao beans. Sources are not
certain about this information so probably it's a very local believe.
In two generations,
the religious and traditional back ground of celebrating Easter has almost
disappeared in Belgium. In younger families even the chocolate eggs get partly replaced by
toys. But at least it's an opportunity for families to get together and share
the meal. Let's hope that the old traditions just evaluate to new ones instead of
being replaced by commercial routines. According to trend spotters, the Easter
Tree is strongly coming up, equivalent to the famous Christmas Tree. This
spiraling willow branch with sprouting leafs is put in a nice pot and decorated
with painted eggs of different material. This makes us hopeful for the future
of Easter customs in our country.
Easter – The resurrection of de Sol Invictus
Ostara (Easter) symbolizes the victory of the light and the beginning of the fertile period: spring. Its name therefore also refers to the East, the direction which the light, the sun comes from. Ostara is the goddess of the shining morning and the raising light. That’s why it is celebrated around the 21’st of March, the beginning of Spring. On this date the sun passes the equator from South to North and day and night are of equal length all over the world.
In the Christian belief the Easter festivity is the feast of the resurrection of Jezus Christ (Christ, de Sol Invictus : the Unconquered Sun). The Christian Easter celebration is therefore as well as the Ostarafest clearly the celebration of the return of the light, the life and the fertility.
The Easter festivities of nowadays contain more pagan elements as you will see below.
Still nowadays Easter fires are lit every year on Easter day to celebrate the return of the light and Spring time.
Easter fires are pagan habits and have a lot of derivatives such as de Easter candle from which other candles are lit … a modern version of the old custom where branches from the Easter fire were used to take home and to lit the fire place. With the ashes of the Easter fire people used to make their faces black and they used to take the ashes home. It was said to be a way to protect the house and the land for fire and lightening strikes and the ashes symbolised fertility. Also people used to jump through the fire for good luck.
About the Easter Bunny and the egg:
Ostara is as Spring feast THE fertility celebration and the Easter bunny is an animal that represents this fertility. And the egg is also a symbol of fertility and new life. Also the painting of eggs is a custom that is very wide spread all over the world. Even in China people paint eggs. The bright colors symbolize the reviving colors of nature. Especially red was a favourite colour because the morning glory, the red painted sky in the East introduces a brand new day.