Easter is coming, hot cross buns are baking and chocolate bunnies around the world are running scared!
Yes folks, schools have broken up and the mad rush from the interior to the coast is upon us. I'm sure many of you will indulge in a little Easter madness – but how many of you started the Easter season by beating your neighbours with leather straps and running around the town in disguise? Or how many of you plan to throw pots out of the window over the Easter weekend, or douse friends and family with water?
I'm guessing none of these activities will make you particularly popular with friends and neighbours in South Africa. The most exciting activity will be trying to figure out weeks later whose bright idea it was to hide an Easter egg behind the pool filter for the egg hunt, where it melted to a soggy mess and the dog ate the foil wrapper.
But all the activities I mentioned above are in fact real Easter traditions in other parts of the world.
Easter is filled with ancient traditions because of its rich and diverse heritage. Not only is this the time of year for the Christian celebration of Easter and the Jewish celebration of Passover – but even before these two religions it was the time for pagan springtime festivals, symbolising rebirth.
This means that today, we have a rich heritage to draw on for our celebrations. Here are some strange customs and Easter trivia to keep you busy on that long car trip to the coast:
In Spain, the start of Lent is still marked by carnevale (literally "meat, be gone!"). During carnival, everything is turned upside down – women dress as men, children dress as adults – and vice versa.
I was once stopped in my tracks by the sight of grown men dressed in animal masks and wearing cowbells on their belts, running around a park in central Madrid, whacking passersby with leather straps. I would have called it assault, but everybody else seemed to be having a ball! The carnival represents the last bit of fun before the forty days of Lent, which is a time of fasting and denial.
In Poland, housewives stopped baking bread on Good Friday until the Holy Week believing that if they baked then, the bread they baked throughout the rest of the year would spoil.
If any housewife violated this ban, the entire village would be in danger of a long drought, which could be repelled only by throwing the pots and guilty housewife into a pond. Which would 'definitely' put a stop to her cooking and baking!
In the northern parts of England the men used to parade the streets on Easter Sunday and claim the privilege of lifting every woman three times from the ground, receiving in payment a kiss or a silver sixpence. Clearly, we can learn a lot from them as far as speed dating is concerned!
In Greece on Easter Saturday morning, people throw pots out of their windows to symbolise the rejection of Judas, so wear a hard hat if you're visiting Greece during Easter.
Easter bunnies and eggs
And what about our modern traditions of Easter bunnies and eggs?
The name "Easter" is based on the Saxon goddess of Oestre , who was the goddess of the dawn and the spring – both representing regeneration and fertility. She brought an end to winter, making days longer and brighter, and her presence could be felt by all in the newly flowering plants and the new births of baby animals.
The animal associated with Oestre was the rabbit, and gradually as pagan beliefs were supplanted by Christian beliefs all that remained of Oestre's festival was the symbol of the Easter bunny. The Easter eggs we enjoy today are also a remnant of her symbols of rebirth.
This year, I will have the immense pleasure of spending Easter with my family in South Africa and yes, we will definitely be having an Easter egg hunt with my two nephews. But certainly no dousing Aunty Jeanne with water, or throwing mom’s pots out of the windows!
So how will your family be celebrating the Easter holiday?
Jeanne Horak-Druiff is the face behind the multi-award winning blog www.cooksister.com. This ex-lawyer based in London now spends all her free-time cooking, photographing and eating good food.