Easter in the Balkans: Customs & Traditions you didn’t know about

balcan easter

The favorite, for many, holiday has finally arrived. It’s a time for extended family gatherings, a visit to the village, food and songs – yes, Easter is here! Yet beyond these familiar delights, Easter brings its own customs and traditions. While, some may be similar in many Balkan countries, there are others you had no idea about! Let’s take a look at what happens in Greece and neighbouring countries at Easter!


In Greece, customs vary from place to place, with many of them being unknown. One such tradition is the rain dance in Thassos, rooted in rituals dedicated to the god Dionysus. In Kalyvia of Limenaria, locals perform a dance on the Tuesday following Easter, singing “Για βρεξ’ Απρίλη μ”, in hopes of invoking spring rain from April, nature, and God. On Patmos, also known as the Holy Island, the Neptiris ceremony is annually reenacted. This ceremony recreates Christ’s washing of his disciples’ feet before the Last Supper, with the Abbot, representing Christ, washing the feet of twelve priests after Mass on Maundy Thursday morning. In certain parts of Drama, the burial customs of the Pontian people endure. Locals visit graves, offer red eggs and sweets, and sing in remembrance of the dead.


During the era of Enver Hoxha’s communist dictatorship, Albania became the world’s inaugural atheist state, resulting in the closure of all mosques and churches in 1967. Atheism still holds significant influence, with approximately one-third of the population identifying as Christians. In a nation where diverse religions peacefully coexist, an intriguing Easter tradition involves Christian families presenting Muslim families with red eggs, equal in number to their own family members, as a gesture of goodwill.


In Romania, on Maundy Thursday, Christians bring food and drinks to the church, while at the same time dyeing Easter eggs. The custom of dyeing eggs is deeply rooted in Romanian culture with a rich variety of colours and patterns, which vary from region to region. In cities, eggs are usually painted red, while in rural areas, such as in the northern region of Bucovina, egg painting is an art form, with locals drawing fancy patterns with coloured wax.

On the evening of Maundy Thursday, housewives select one of the painted eggs to be “read” by the priest at the church. It is believed that an egg read on this day will remain preserved until the following year When the service is over, they bury the egg in their field for a good harvest. According to another Romanian Easter custom, on the second day of Easter, young men douse women with cold water so that they will be fertile and also “purify” themselves. Nowadays, a modern variation of this custom has emerged, where men simply spray women with perfume instead.


In Bulgaria, you will often hear the saying “not every day is Easter,” indicating the holiday’s significance. Traditionally on Easter day, everyone wears new clothes, which symbolize both the “awakening” of new life in spring and the resurrection of Christ.

Eggs are also central to Bulgarian customs, with many of the customs reminiscent of those in Serbia. Initially, eggs are dyed with different techniques and materials either before sunset on Maundy Thursday or during the early hours of Holy Saturday. The first egg is always red, and it is customary for the grandmother or mother to touch each child’s forehead and cheeks with it, wishing them health and prosperity. This special egg is then stored in the refrigerator until the following year to safeguard the home and its inhabitants.

According to Bulgarian tradition, cuckoos bring spring with them! If one hears a cuckoo during Lent, it means that spring is coming. If that person hears the cuckoo with money in their pocket, they are believed to have a prosperous year ahead. On the other hand, if they are without money or hungry, they may face financial difficulties throughout the year.


If we were to sum up Easter in Serbia in just one word, it would definitely be “eggs.” Eggs are all over the place, coming in different sizes, colors, and designs. What’s interesting is that they are dyed using onions and decorated with flowers. Unlike in some other countries, they are dyed on Good Friday, instead of Holy Thursday. The very first egg to be painted is always red, symbolizing the blood of Christ. This special egg, called ‘Čuvarkuća’, ‘čuvar’, ‘stražar’, ‘stražnik’, each of which means guardian of the house, holds significance and is kept until the next Easter because it is believed to have special power. In certain regions of Serbia, the custom involves burying the red egg in the yard or field, so that the soil is fertile. Another tradition is the morning ritual of washing the face with water mixed with the red egg, basil, corn, and geranium from the night before. The children’s cheeks are rubbed with red egg to keep them healthy all year round.

On Easter day, Serbs get out of bed early, and stay up until midnight, as it is thought that otherwise, they will be sleepy and lazy until the next Easter. Another Easter Day custom called “komka” is particularly widespread in southern Serbia. Komka is a mixture of water, wine, aromatic herbs and Easter cake, which is drunk by all members of the family. Following this, they leap over an axe placed on the doorstep to ward off evil spirits and bad luck from their home.

North Macedonia

In North Macedonia, at dawn on Maundy Thursday, housewives wake up before sunrise and dye three eggs red. The first one is dedicated to Jesus and is placed in the sunlight, usually near a door or window, as it is believed that when the sun rises, God’s rays will shine on it. In certain regions, the egg is positioned alongside the household’s patron saint image, as every home has one. The egg is also used to rub the cheeks of young children, three times each, to keep them healthy throughout the year. The second egg is dedicated to the head of the household, while the third egg is believed to bring peace and health to family members. According to tradition, the housewife must not experience hunger or have negative thoughts before dyeing these three eggs, as it is believed they may bring bad luck.

Another interesting ritual takes place on the evening of Holy Saturday, as locals prepare to go to church. By using the first dyed red egg along with a local plant called zdravec and a raw, white egg, they “wash away” the sins from their faces.

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