Divine Word Missionaries blog will share some of the latest mission updates from around the world. The more than 6,000 Divine Word Missionaries are serving in 78 countries with a variety of provinces/regions that are then grouped into four zones, namely, the European zone (EUROPA), the Pan-American zone (PANAM), the Asia-Pacific zone (ASPAC), and the Africa-Madagascar zone (AFRAM). The zones may work as geographical sub-zones wherever this seems suitable. Check back often for real-time stories from the missions.
Celebrating Easter Around the World
Mar 27, 2018
Divine Word Missionaries serve in 84 countries, and each one of those countries celebrates Easter with its own unique traditions. While the central celebration of the Easter Mass is the same in every country, our missionaries will see different customs throughout the world. Here are some examples:
The Philippines: Father Felmar Fiels, SVD was kind enough to share Easter memories from the years he served at St. Michael Parish in Mabuhay. “Easter is celebrated with so much jubilations,” Fr. Felmar writes. “After the Easter Vigil Mass, my parishioners from 20-plus different chapels would stay in the parish to wait for the traditional ritual of Salubong, meaning ‘meeting’ of the Blessed Mother and the Risen Christ.
“Children dressed up as angels would sing Easter songs. The best child singer of the parish … usually ends up singing the Regina Caeli as he or she lifts up the veil from the image of the Virgin Mary. This is the most awaited part of the Salubong, which symbolizes the end of her mourning after Jesus Christ’s death.”
The Netherlands: Our order began in the Netherlands, and St. Michael’s in Steyl remains our Mother House. The Netherlands has a charming Easter tradition rooted in Church practice. Church bells are silent during the final days of Lent, which led to the legend that bells fly from their steeples to Rome at the end of Lent. Depending on the region, the bells depart on Maundy Thursday or Holy Saturday—called Stille Zaterdag or “Silent Saturday.” The bells make their triumphant return to Holland on Easter morning, bringing with them colored eggs and chocolate rabbits.
Germany: The homeland of our founder, St. Arnold Janssen, is also home to several Easter traditions. Easter eggs are not hidden in Germany as they are in America. Instead, they are used to decorate bushes and trees. Ambitious families will decorate their Osterbaum, or “Easter tree,” with thousands of eggs. Some towns elaborately decorate their public wells and fountains with Easter eggs. These are called Osterbrunnen.
Poland: On Easter Monday Polish youth, mostly boys, carry out a tradition called Smigus-dyngus. With buckets of water, or even squirt guns, they run about trying to drench people. This tradition is said to have originated with the baptism of Polish Prince Mieszko on Easter Monday in 966 A.D., which brought Catholicism to the country.
Hungary: This Eastern European nation, where Divine Word Missionaries have served since 1924, has its own version of Smigus-dyngus called “The Sprinkling.” In Hungary, though, this practice is mostly secular with romantic intentions. On Easter Monday young men spritz perfume-scented water at young women hoping to be rewarded with a kiss.
Ecuador: During Holy Week, Catholics in this South American nation prepare a soup called fanesca. The soup is made with a salt cod called bacalao and 12 types of beans and grains. The bacalao represents Christ and the 12 beans and grains represent his 12 Apostles.
Brazil: Brazilians get a jump on Easter festivities on Holy Saturday, which they call Sábado de Aleluia. The Easter vigil is celebrated with smaller versions of Carnival to mark the end of Lent.
Australia: Our confreres down under are unlikely to receive chocolate rabbits on Easter. In Australia rabbits are hated rodents that destroy crops and spoil the land. There goes Peter Cottontail. Instead, Australia has the Easter Bilby, a long-eared, cuddly marsupial that leaves crops alone. An Easter Bilby first appeared in a 1968 story written by a 9-year-old girl, and Australian confectioners started making chocolate bilbies in the early 1990s.
Norway: This is our newest mission country. Two Divine Word Missionaries from Poland recently arrived in Norway to minister to migrants with Polish backgrounds. If our confreres love a mystery, they’re in luck. Norway has a peculiar, non-religious Easter custom all its own. During Easter, Norwegians go mad for mystery stories and thrillers. Publishers release special “Easter thrillers” called Paaskekrimmen. The major television networks run marathons of “Agatha Christie’s Poirot” and other crime dramas. Short mystery stories are printed on the sides of milk cartons. This tradition dates to the 1920s. The origins are mysterious, which makes perfect sense.