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Easter has been associated with old pagan celebrations of the rebirth of earth in the spring.

In Finland, there is usually still snow on the ground at Easter time and the trees are leafless. To decorate the homes, bare twigs of birch and willow trees are brought in well ahead of Easter.

The birch twigs placed in vases start budding and expose their delicate green leaves just in time for Easter celebration, symbolizing new life and the arrival of spring after the long winter. The twigs can be decorated and hung with various Easter ornaments, like dyed feathers, little eggs etc.

Rye grass Rye-grass seeds (Lolium multiflorum) are planted on plates or pots well ahead of Easter.

The growing grass is trimmed to an even height and various decorations, like little chicks, hens, roosters, bunnies, Easter witches and dyed eggs are placed among it.

Pussy willow twigs Pussy willow twigs blessed by the priest in the Palm Sunday church service are handed out to the parishioners after the service.

The twigs are brought home where they may be decorated with colourful feathers and other Easter ornaments.

Picture on right: pussy willow twigs decorated with colourful feathers.

A traditional custom of the children of Orthodox families is to go from door to door to wish their relatives and neighbours God's blessing by whisking at them with the blessed willow twigs.

Daffodils Colourful flowers, like tulips, daffodils and carnations, are popular at Easter time.

Flower arrangements are handed to friends and relatives when visiting them.

Tulips Bright colours like yellow and green and all things reminding of spring, sun and new life are popular Easter items also here in Finland, even though it is usually still very wintry outside, with snow covering the ground in many parts of the country.

Easter eggs

Ornamental Easter eggs The egg is an old symbol of fertility and new life in many cultures. Painted or dyed hard-boiled or hollowed-out eggs are symbols of Easter in all Christian countries.

The dyed eggs are used as decorative objects. Eggs are also made of stone, glass, wood, paper, wax and other ingredients. The most famous ornamental Easter eggs are the Fabergé eggs prepared for the Russian imperial family by the Fabergé jewellers.

The custom of handing out decorated Easter eggs between relatives and friends became known in Finland through the Orthodox people in the late 19th century. This custom spread wider as poultry farming became more common in the country in the beginning of 20th century.

Chocolate eggs Finnish children  —  in Orthodox and Lutheran families alike  —  are given hollow chocolate Easter eggs containing a small surprise. When selling of chocolate eggs became popular in the early 20th century, the surprise was usually a ring.

For the Orthodox, the most important colour used for dyeing Easter eggs is scarlet red, symbolizing the joy of resurrection but also the blood shed by Christ on the cross.

According to one legend, Mary Magdalene, a devoted follower of Jesus who was first to see him after his resurrection and to announce it to the apostles, presented a plain egg before the Roman emperor Tiberius as her humble gift for him.

She declared the message of resurrection of Christ and the egg being a symbol for new life. As the sceptical Tiberius stated it would be as unlikely for someone to be raised from death as it would be for the egg to change its colour to red, the egg, at that moment, turned scarlet as a testimony to Mary's words. Since then the traditional colour for Easter eggs has been scarlet red.

'Mignon' egg Picture on right: a traditional Finnish Easter egg "Mignon", consisting of solid cocoa and praline paste in a real eggshell, handmade by the Fazer confectionery manufacturer since the year 1896.

At home, eggs can easily be dyed using only a few simple ingredients.

See instructions for dyeing Easter eggs here.

You will find traditional Finno-Russian Easter recipes here.


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