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Easter traditions in Switzerland


Like in America and European countries, Easter celebration in Switzerland is marked by a growing commercialization with religious aspects of the festival taking a backseat. In the days leading up to Easter, chocolate bunnies, coloured eggs and special Easter cakes (Osterfladen) appear in shop windows and the Easter Sunday often starts off with an Easter-egg hunt. Nevertheless Easter is celebrated with regional flavor in different parts of the country.


Easter festivity includes lots of regional essence in its celebrations. For instance, in Switzerland, the cuckoo brings the Easter eggs. Here the Easter eggs, cuckoo and baskets are very much a significant part of the Easter festivities. These are considered to be bearers of luck and hope and are used extensively to boost the cheerful spirit of the festival. Also, there are several exclusive Easter rituals that are only followed in Switzerland. The entire Easter week is celebrated in a special manner with different rituals on each day.

On the last Thursday of Lent, a Biblical Passion Play performance, complete with Roman soldiers and horseback trumpeters, is staged in Mendrisio in the southern Italian-speaking region of Ticino. On Good Friday devotees take out a somber procession during which two sculptures, one of the dead Christ and the other of Mother Mary, are carried through the streets.

On Easter Monday, known as "Zwanzgerle", an egg cracking game is played where children challenge adults to break their decorated eggs with a twenty cent coin. If the adult fails to do so, the child keeps the coin, but if the adult is successful, they get their coin back and the egg as well. Although this game results in a windfall for the children, occasionally the adults too manage to turn the tables on the kids.

In Romont in western Switzerland, 'weeping women' carry scarlet cushions through the streets bearing the symbols of Christ's passion - such as the nails used in the crucifixion and the crown of thorns that was placed on his head - and the handkerchief which St Veronica used to wipe Christ's brow as he carried the cross and which was miraculously imprinted with the image of his face.