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Easter riding processions

Easter riding processions are a Sorbian custom particularly maintained in the Catholic regions of Upper Lusatia (between the cities of Kamenz, Hoyerswerda and Bautzen). Men ride through the Sorbian communities on festively adorned horses to spread the good news about Christ's resurrection.

Osterreiterpaar führt mit christlichen Bannern eine lange Osterreiterprozession über die sorbischen Dörfer an.
The Easter riding procession is led by flag-bearers.  © dpa – Bildfunk

The preparations of this centuries-old tradition usually start on Good Friday and Easter Saturday. The horses, often loaned from far away, are brushed and groomed, their manes and tails washed and elaborately braided. Even the harnesses are often decorated with fresh flowers. On the day of the procession, the horses also wear colourfully embroidered bows, often bearing the Sorbian flag.

Young men aged 14 and over are allowed to participate in the Easter riding processions, and wear a small green crown as a badge on their chest.

On Easter Sunday, the men ride into the neighbouring communities on festively adorned horses, wearing tails and top hats, to announce the good news of the Resurrection. A procession can consist of up to 450 riders and horses.

Osterreiter im Profil vor der hoch stehenden Sonne.
The festive costume of the Easter riders consists of a frock coat and top hat.  © dpa – Bildfunk

The procession routes are pre-defined, and pass through as many villages as possible to spread the news in the form of church songs in the Sorbian language. According to tradition, the individual processions most not meet one another on their way.

A joint thanksgiving service with all the riders on Easter Tuesday marks the end of the Easter festivities.

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