Old Customs of Easter Week
1st Sunday of April:
Low Sunday (Dominica in albis)
Low Sunday (Dominica in albis)
(Extracted from Christian Feast and Customs, by Fr Francis X. Weiser)
Blessing of Easter foods (baskets)
In the early days of Christianity all of Easter Week was one continuous feast. Most people abstained from their usual work and attended church services daily. Priests in France used to celebrate two masses daily during Easter Week. A Spanish missal of the ninth century shows three Mass texts for each day of this week.
Because those who were baptized on Holy Saturday wore new white garments, Easter Week is also called "White Week" in the Western Church and the "Week of New Garments" in the Oriental [Eastern] Church. During the whole week the neophytes, in their linen dress and soft sandals, stood close to the altar at all services as a separate group within the sanctuary of the basilica. Daily the bishop would address them with special instructions after the crowds had dispersed. It was the honeymoon of their new life as Christians, a week in intense happiness and spiritual joy. It was only after mass of the Sunday Octave of Easter that they exchanged the white garments for the ordinary dress.
Easter Monday is still in many countries a day of rest and relaxation. First among them is the "Emmaus walk", inspired by the Gospel of the day (Lk. 24). In Germany and Austria, youngsters would play Easter games and sports (Osterspiele) in the Easter field (Osteranger). In French Canada, the Emmaus walk takes the form of a visit to the grandparents.
In Northern Europeans countries, Monday and Tuesday are the traditional days of "switching" and "drenching", customs based on pre-Christian fertility rites. In good-natured mischief the boys will surprise the girls with buckets of water and douse them thoroughly, often reciting some little rhyme.
Friday of Easter is a favorite day for devout pilgrimages (Osterwallfahrt). Praying and singing hymns, the faithful walk for hours preceded by a cross and church banners. In the Austrian Tyrol, people walk ten hours each way. In some sections of German and Austria, the farmers make their pilgrimage on horseback, accompanied by a band playing Easter hymns.
The Sunday after Easter received diverse names. It was called the "Octave of the Pasch" from the earliest centuries. It acquired later the name of "Sunday in White" (see above), hence the "White Sunday." The English term "Low Sunday" comes from the ancient practice of counting the octave day as belonging to the feast, so that Easter actually would last eight days including two Sundays. The primary (high) one is Easter Sunday, and the secondary (low) one the Sunday after Easter. Low Sunday was in medieval times the day for the first communions of children. Dressed in white, they enter the church in solemn procession, holding lighted candles. In some places, each child receives first communion with father and mother kneeling beside him, also receiving the Blessed Sacrament.