From parades to flying church bells, what’s your favourite international Easter tradition?
What do you think of when you picture Easter? Does it evoke memories of painting egg shells in pastel colours, or going on spring walks as nature begins to blossom? For us, Easter can only mean one thing: the chance to indulge in chocolate guilt-free.
We love conjuring up new creations every Easter and our Easter Egg selection certainly gives the Easter bunny a run for his money! Although chocolate egg hunts and Easter seem to go hand in hand, this holiday takes on a slightly different form around the world.
Easter is a Christian holiday, so celebrations are more common where the religion is prevalent. However, the tradition of giving eggs in spring boasts a long and rich history entirely separate from Christianity. We’ve taken a deeper look into this in our blog on why we eat chocolate eggs at Easter.
Easter in the UK
Across the UK, many families come together to celebrate Easter Sunday. As the UK is now predominantly secular, the holiday no longer has strong religious ties. However, this doesn’t mean they hold back from the celebrations.
For many, Easter Sunday is the chance to get together with family to enjoy a big home-cooked meal. Most Easter Sundays consist of Easter egg hunts in the garden, especially if there are little ones about. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the kids get all the fun! Us adults are young at heart after all,which is why many of us enjoy treating ourselves or loved ones to an Easter egg or two.
Hot cross buns are also commonly eaten around Easter time, each decorated with a cross to mark the crucifixion of Jesus on Good Friday. Another classic is simnel cake: if you’ve not heard of this cake before, then picture a dense and rich fruit cake, topped with a layer of marzipan.
How is Easter celebrated in Spain
Whilst Easter spans a weekend for us Brits, Spanish people dedicate a full week to the celebration. Known as Semana Santa – holy week – Easter is marked with huge and extravagant processions in every town. If you ever find yourself in Spain during this holiday then you can expect to see hooded figures parading down the street, detailed religious floats depicting religious stories from the Bible, and live music.
The Spanish prefer to indulge in treats such as torrija (a bit like French toast) and pestiños (a fried piece of dough glazed in sugar or honey).
How is Easter celebrated in France
As France is a predominantly Catholic country, the French like to celebrate Easter in a variety of different ways. Whilst British children look towards the Easter bunny for their dosage of chocolate eggs, French children wait in anticipation of flying church bells.
Allegedly, when the bells do not ring from Good Friday to Easter Sunday, they are fetching chocolate goodies from Rome to bring back for the little ones. Apart from the difference in who – or what – brings the chocolate, the celebration isn’t too different to ours in the UK.
How is Easter celebrated in Germany
Lighting bonfires may be synonymous with Guy Fawkes’ night in the UK, but for Germans it marks the celebration of Easter. Easter celebrations in Germany can vary: some set up mini festivals to mark the date. You’ll find stands selling sausages and wine near the bonfire, as well as funfair rides. Other communities stuff big bales of straw into a wooden wheel, set in on fire and roll it down the hill.
For Germans, it is traditional to eat something green on Maundy Thursday, the date before Good Friday. This day is known as Gründonnerstag (or green Thursday). Plenty of green veggies are eaten on that day. Perhaps it’s a sensible idea, considering plenty of spiced sweet breads and cakes are consumed in the following days.
How is Easter celebrated in Poland
The Polish like to celebrate Easter in a way that’s distinctive from any other country. Śmigus-Dyngus – or Wet Monday – marks the date of a national water fight. Buckets, hoses and water guns are all used to drench friends, family and strangers.
This deluge doesn’t wash away the traditional elements of Easter, however. In fact, the Polish take decorating Easter eggs extremely seriously, painting delicate ornamental floral patterns onto eggs.
How is Easter celebrated in Italy
How Italians celebrate Easter comes as no surprise. When we consider that Italy has a huge Catholic following and is next-door to the Pope, it’s unsurprising that Easter is a significant holiday for Catholics. The Pope leads a huge mass on Good Friday, during which a huge crucifix made out of burning torches is raised into the night sky.
This doesn’t mean that Easter in Italy is celebrated by praying only. In Florence, they enjoy a tradition named Scoppio del Carro. Here, oxen pull an intricately decorated wagon into a small square, followed by hundreds of people dressed in 15th century garments. The twist? The wagon is full of fireworks, and once it arrives in the square, revellers set it alight for an explosive light show!
Just like us Brits, Italians enjoy a sweet spiced and enriched dough called Colomba di Pasqua. This traditional cake is similar to a panettone, baked into the shape of a dove.
How is Easter celebrated in Finland and Switzerland
If you find yourself on the streets of Finland or Switzerland, you may find yourself confused with the date. These nations adopt a Halloween-esque approach to Easter, as children in both countries dress as witches to persuade others to give them chocolate.
These little witches don decorated headscarves, freckled painted faces and carry paintings and drawings, ready to be exchanged for sweet treats.
How is Easter celebrated in Greece
A night of lights marks the celebration of Easter in Greece. During Midnight service on Holy Saturday, the priest uses his candle to light those of his worshippers. Those present pass the flame from candle to candle. The ceremony then concludes with prayers, shouts and hymns.
As Easter marks the end of 40 days of fasting for Easter Orthodox communities, indulgent and decadent meals are served. Roast lamb, fluffy breads and sweet pastries are all enjoyed around the nation.
Around the world
Christianity is practiced all over the world, which is why Easter has formed its own traditions in many countries across the globe.
Easter in the Philippines
Surprisingly, the Roman executioner Longinus is the inspiration for the Philippino celebration. Men and women dress up as Roman soldiers, donning gladiator-like dress. They then proceed to walk the streets, pranking and scaring children.
You wouldn’t be wrong in asking why Phillipinos pay homage to Christ’s executioner. According to the Bible, Longinus declared his faith to Christianity after a drop of Christ’s blood cured his blindness, after which he was beheaded for his faith.
Easter in Bermuda
Sunny blue skies and glistening beaches might not be our first thought when we think of Easter, but Bermudians get to enjoy all of this and more at Easter. In Bermuda, people mark Good Friday with a kite-flying festival on Horseshoe Bay Beach. The kites are held together with wooden sticks, marking the cross that Jesus died on.
Just like the Brits, Bermudians enjoy hot cross buns. They also like to snack on codfish cakes.
Easter in Mexico
Just like in Spain, Mexican Easter celebrations span the length of one week. For Mexicans, Easter provides the opportunity to cleanse one’s soul from evil. Good Friday sees a much more solemn procession, with silent groups of people walking in the streets to mourn the death of Christ. On Holy Saturday, they erect an effigy of Judas who they then hang and burn at the stake.
Easter in Australia
To us Brits, the Easter bunny is a pretty harmless symbol. However, in Australia a campaign was actually set up by Rabbit-Free Australia to get rid of it altogether. Instead of an Easter bunny, they have an Easter bilby (think bunny-eared shrew) instead. This is because in Australia, rabbits are pests that destroy crops and livelihoods. This change also pays homage to an endangered species, widening respect and care for the bilby.
You may have noticed that, for many countries, chocolate isn’t a focal part of Easter celebrations. This is partly because of the different chocolate cultures countries have around the world. For some nations, the focus is more on the Christian significance rather than eating chocolate!
If you’d like to experience Easter in a different way, then why not try out some of these traditions with your family? This isn’t to say that you should forgo your chocolate Easter eggs; after all, when else can you gorge yourself on your favourite treats without any guilt?