Easter is a holiday filled with family, friends and reflection. And eggs.
Since ancient times, the egg and the rabbit symbolized spring and in Europe, different colored eggs, pinched from the birds’ nests, were made into talismans. During Lenten season in Medieval Europe, eggs were forbidden and consequently, considered a treat again at Easter.
In modern day Norway, during the five day weekend holiday from Holy Thursday to Easter Monday, Norwegians head to the mountain cabins and devour detective novels. The Easter pastime became so popular, Paaskekrim (Easter crime) refers to the novels released at Easter.
Church bells, not the Easter bunny, deliver eggs in France. The bells remain silent from Good Friday until Easter as a token of mourning for the crucified Christ. On Easter, my mother-in-law would ring a dinner bell and my children would race down the stairs like on Christmas morning, to find eggs hidden in the flower pots on the wrought iron balcony. French children search the skies to see the bells flying home to the Vatican in Rome.
In general, the Easter celebration in Switzerland entails elaborate preparation like in the U.S. and Germany. School children share a giant omelet for lunch and spend hours decorating human sized, paper machete bunnies to be displayed in commercial centers. Whereas in France,the church bells ring dropping eggs from the skies, the Swiss adopted the German legend dating from 1572 of the Easter bunny hiding eggs in the garden.
Centuries ago in Switzerland, the cuckoo bird delivered the eggs – an appropriate legend for the capital of the cuckoo clock. According to the Swiss, the cuckoo bird sat on the eggs of neighbor birds. In modern times, the rabbit delivers the eggs.
Some families have adopted the German custom decorating the Easter table with a branch of a tree adorned with small wooden chickens, bunnies and eggs as decoration. Egg decoating is popular too. Unlike France where only brown eggs can be found, the Swiss stores sell individual white eggs. However, nothing is more popular than the chocolate egg. Easter is big business especially for Lindt and Nestlé and other world famous Swiss chocolate makers.
But it’s not chocolate; its the egg representing fecundity, new life, new beginnings that is the greatest symbol of Easter in Switzerland. When the thick veil of winter clouds disappear, revealing snow capped mountains and emerald yards where yellow jonquils dance in the wind, one feels reborn with the stirrings of spring.
In the past, Europeans exchanged cards more frequently at Easter than at Christmas, with drawings of bunnies, ducks, lambs, and eggs. So wherever you may be in the world, Happy Easter from Switzerland!
Wishing you bells ringing, good tidings, bunnies proliferating with chocolate eggs and leisure time for a good read.