Why we observe Easter Monday?5 min read
Originally written in March 2021, updated April 10, 2023
Easter Monday is the day after Easter Sunday and is a public holiday in some countries.
But why we observe Easter Monday?
The Bible itself does not say anything about what happened on Easter Monday, after Jesus’ resurrection, and it also doesn’t specifically instruct Christians to celebrate the Monday following Easter Sunday.
But across the world, different cultures celebrate the day for different reasons. For some it’s a more solemn remembrance of Christ’s death and subsequent resurrection, which is marked with an outdoor procession.
For others there’s a more playful element to celebrating the day, like holding Easter egg-rolling competitions. Rolling Easter eggs is traditionally meant to symbolise the rolling of the stone from the tomb where Jesus was held.
In any case, many Christians around the world celebrate Easter Monday as a day of rest, particularly in countries where the day is a public holiday. It is a day for many to enjoy the time outdoors in countries such as Australia, Canada and Italy, while Easter parades occur in some parts of the world on this day.
In the Eastern Orthodox Church and Byzantine Rite Catholic Churches, this day is called “Bright Monday” or “Renewal Monday”.
The services, as in the rest of Bright Week, are quite different from during the rest of the year and are similar to the services on Pascha (Easter Sunday), including an outdoor procession after the Divine Liturgy.
Did you know? Easter Monday was formerly regarded as unlucky and was therefore known as Black Monday (or White Monday in Greece). Many sources attribute this expression to great losses of life during military expeditions but Monday itself was generally considered unlucky. It meant returning to school after the Easter break for many school children and was also known as Bloody Monday.
In medieval England women were allowed to haul out of bed any man they found there. Even Kings Edward I and Edward II went through this tradition: It was traditional for men to lift women three times by the arms and legs in northern England, where women would return the act on the following day.
On modern days, in Australia, Easter Monday is a public holiday in which some people enjoy outdoor sporting events.
In Austria and Southern Germany, there is the traditional “Emmausgang”, commemorating the walk of the disciples to Emmaus, to which Jesus followed them without being recognized.
Śmigus-dyngus (or lany poniedziałek, Polish for Wet Monday) is the name for Easter Monday in Poland. In Czech Republic it is called velikonoční pondělí, in Slovakia veľkonočný pondelok and in Hungary Vízbevető.
All these Catholic countries (and some others) practice an unique ancient custom on this day: Traditionally, boys and men pour a bucket of water on girls and women and/or spank their buttocks and legs with long thin twigs (pussy willow, did you know its legend?) or switches made from willow, birch or decorated tree branches. A legend says that it keep women healthy, beautiful, and fertile during the whole next year.
Another related custom, unique to Poland, is that of sprinkling bowls (garce) of ashes on people or houses, celebrated a few weeks earlier at the “półpoście”. This custom is almost forgotten, but still practiced in the area around the borders of Masuria and Masovia.
In Egypt, the ancient festival of Sham Ennessim (Arabic: شم النسيم, literally meaning “smelling of the breeze”) is celebrated on Easter Monday, though the festival dates back to Pharonic times (about 2700 BC). It is an Egyptian national holiday. Traditional activities include painting eggs, taking meals outdoors, and eating feseekh (fermented mullet).
In Italy the tradition of “Pasquetta” is a closely-held one, maintained with almost religious fervor though it is a civil holiday. The day after Easter Sunday is called “Pasquetta” (little Easter) o “Lunedi dell’angelo” (Angel’s monday) and is a day to relax.
It was instituted in the post-war period to create a long weekend, which allows people to have a weekend getaway, or at least a “scampagnata” (jaunt to the countryside). In fact, that is the main way to celebrate Pasquetta: a picnic! Hordes of people go to the mountains, hills, or to the beach, or their own family’s country property, to enjoy a picnic or a barbecue outdoors.
Food often includes something with eggs, in keeping with the Easter theme, like a cold frittata, or a “pizza rustica” filled with greens and hard boiled eggs. Sometimes things get more elaborate, but often it is just a simple lunch of salami, cheese, hard boiled eggs, fruit, good bread, and of course some wine, enjoyed with friends or family.
In Germany, people go out into the fields early in the morning and hold Easter egg races. For Roman Catholics, Easter Monday is also a Holy Day of Obligation in Germany, while in the Republic of Ireland it is a day of remembrance for the men and women who died in the Easter Rising which began on Easter Monday 1916. Until 1966, there was a parade of veterans, past the headquarters of the Irish Republican Army at the General Post Office (GPO) on O’Connell Street, and a reading of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic.
In New Zealand and in Netherlands (Tweede Paasdag) it is a National Public Holiday while in the United States, Easter Monday is not a federal holiday and is generally not observed on a nationwide level, apart from a few traditions such as the White House Easter egg roll. This tradition can be traced as far back as 1878, although it was not always held at the White House grounds in the earlier years, and It receives media attention each year.
These are just some of this day’s traditions. And how will you celebrate?
Images from web – Google Research