Easter traditions around the world

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Under the impression that Easter is all about hot cross buns, Creme Eggs and fluffy bunnies? Think again.
Under the impression that Easter is all about hot cross buns, Creme Eggs and fluffy bunnies? Think again.

Under the impression that Easter is all about hot cross buns, Creme Eggs and fluffy bunnies? Think again. Across the world a huge range of beautiful - and downright bizarre - customs will be kicking off next weekend to mark one of the Christian calendar's biggest feast days.

Before dropping our jaws at other countries' strange celebrations, however, let's not forget what we tell our own kids first. I'm alluding, of course, to the giant rabbit that purportedly lobs liberal helpings of chocolate eggs and marshmallow chicks into their bedrooms - or else hides them all over the house and garden with a trail of tantalising clues. Even by these odd standards though, Poland's Catholics seem to be pushing the boundaries with their own animal-focused feasting - butter moulded into the shape of a spring lamb!

Things are reassuringly egg-centred across the pond. The White House leads the way for many Americans with its annual Easter egg roll. Nope, not sunny-side-up on a floury bap - we're talking about a race where children push an egg through the grass with a long-handled spoon. If that isn't entertainment enough, keep your eyes peeled for the White House personalities togged up in Easter Bunny costumes on the lawn. Somehow we can't see David Cameron following suit (no pun intended) next Sunday...

Food is unsurprisingly a common feature of Easter celebrations across the globe, and Jamaica actually shares the British predilection for spiced raisin buns. No butter and strawberry jam on that island, however - instead it is de rigueur to devour them with a slice of cheese. Even employers get in on the action, usually gifting their staff bun and cheese combos to enjoy over the holiday.

Things take an altogether weirder turn in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, where there's a long (and, by the sound of it, quite painful) tradition of spanking. Don't be expecting Christian Grey to turn up anytime soon though, because these bottom slaps are nothing to do with kinkiness and everything to do with folk beliefs based on nature's cycle of rebirth. As part of the tradition, men fashion wicker rods and decorate them with coloured ribbons before tapping the tush of their partners to allegedly promote health, beauty and fertility over the coming year. In larger towns and cities, women tend to be sprayed with scented water instead, although exactly why either practise is necessary remains something of a mystery to us.

Speaking of a good mystery, our absolute favourite Easter pastime has to be Norway's passion for saturating the media with whodunnits. All the main TV channels run crime and detective shows over the holiday, while magazines print still more suspense stories. If you're a detective fiction writer over there, chances are your publisher will release your new paperback around this time for maximum exposure. Just don't kill off the Easter bunny in a dramatic plot twist, please. That butter lamb would be one helluva disappointing seasonal stand-in...