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‘Easter hunt involves bruises, honor and fight over a 35-lb ball’

by Brad A. Greenberg

April 28, 2009 | 9:05 pm

And you thought the Easter Bunny and egg hunts were an odd way to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. Check out what some Georgians do every year for Orthodox Easter.

The game is called lelo, and it’s a bit rough, so kids aren’t allowed to play. But lelo is such a part of local culture that even the communists couldn’t stop it.

The Christian Science Monitor explains:

It is a simple game. The playing area is the entire village of Shukhuti, which is set between two rivers. The match starts when the village priest drops a 35-lb. ball in the middle of the two-lane highway that runs through Shukhuti. The upper and lower halves of the village then struggle against each other – by any means necessary – to carry the ball some 225 yards back to their respective riverbanks.

When fully under way, a match looks like an enormous rugby scrum madly plowing through the village with the passion of Pamplona’s running of the bulls. When you see it coming, you run.

Nobody knows where lelo (which means “try” in Georgian) originated, when it was introduced, and why it is played on Easter Sunday. It is simply a village tradition.

(skip)

Lelo is a tradition. Of course, it’s not good when people hurt each other, but today, this is the best possible way to express the spirit of heroism and vitality,” says Father Saba, a former Greco-Roman wrestler.

Sounds fun, sort of like the Feats of Strength, but I’ll take pastel plastic eggs filled with jelly beans and pocket change over bumps and bruises.

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