Easter celebrations around Europe

16/04/2019 | Rebecca Twose

Happy Easter! At Language Insight, we love learning about different cultures and as the shops in the UK are currently overflowing with Easter eggs, we thought we’d take a look at some Easter celebrations taking place throughout Europe…

Saint Peter's Basilica
Saint Peter’s Basilica

Easter in Italy

If you visit Italy in Easter, you probably won’t see the Easter bunny or be going on an Easter egg hunt. Easter is an extremely important holiday for Italians, second only to Christmas. Despite the run-up to Easter including solemn processions and masses, Pasqua, as it’s called in Italian, is a joyous celebration filled with rituals and traditions! On Good Friday, the Pope celebrates the Via Crucis (stations of the cross) where a huge burning cross lights up the sky and the stations are described in many different languages. Easter mass takes place at every church across Italy with the most popular being celebrated by the Pope at Saint Peter’s Basilica. Traditional Easter foods in Italy include lamb or goat, artichokes and Easter bread which are often given as gifts to mark the end of the Lenten season. Hollow chocolates eggs are also sometimes given as gifts and usually have a surprise inside (as you can guess Kinder sell a lot of their products during Easter!)

Trees decorated with Easter eggs in Germany
Easter eggs decorate trees in Germany

Easter in Germany

In Germany, Frohe Ostern is how you say ‘Happy Easter’ and the holiday is one of the most celebrated in Germany just like Christmas. In Germany, Easter trees, or twigs and branches, are displayed in homes and they are usually dripping with colourfully decorated eggs. An impressive Easter tree display is at Saalfeld where thousands of eggs decorate a tree in the garden of Volker Kraft, the spectacle attracts around 8,000 people each year! The Easter egg is common symbol used in Germany as it represents new life, and eggs are usually hand decorated with ‘egg-dying kits’ being available to purchase in stores throughout Germany. The Easter Bunny is also a common Easter icon in Germany as it symbolises fertility and was mentioned in early Germany writings as far back as the 16th century, the bunny was later adopted by Americans. Just like in Italy, chocolate eggs are also a tradition in Germany and eating a Kinder Überraschung (Kinder Surprise) is an important part of German Easter tradition!

Semana Santa in Spain
Semana Santa in Spain

Easter in Spain

Semana Santa (Holy Week) is also one of the most important religious celebrations in Spain. Semana Santa is a public holiday which means plenty of eating, drinking and processions. Extraordinary processions take part throughout Holy Week, and they are known as “penance processions” that usually involve members of the brotherhoods taking part. These processions have been part of traditions since the Middle Ages, and they mark a time for Spaniards  to take to the streets and watch elaborate re-enactments of the Passion, as well as spending quality time with their loved ones. In Spain, chocolate Easter eggs are becoming more popular, however, they are not part of Spanish tradition. Instead Spaniards indulge on torrijas, which are a traditional Semana Santa snack that are pieces of bread soaked in milk and egg, before being fried and served with sugar or honey. Semana Santa is also celebrated in Mexico, and is undoubtedly one of the most important holidays in Mexican culture.

Wet Monday in Poland
Wet Monday in Poland

Easter in Poland

Easter celebrations in Poland begin on Palm Sunday where people gather for a procession with palms in their hands. It can be quite difficult to get hold of palms in Poland and so artificial palms are used instead, they’re normally made from the branches of native trees, including willow, yew and olive trees. In some Polish towns, there are palm competitions, the most famous taking place in  Lipnica Murowana, where the highest palm measured to be over 32 meters high! Wet Monday is also a huge Easter tradition in Poland and takes place annually on Easter Monday. Traditionally, Wet Monday entails boys throwing water over girls as a sign of their affection, however, today it is light-hearted fun. So if you’re travelling to Poland this Easter, don’t be alarmed if you see people throwing water on each other… although it’s probably best you don’t carry any electronics in case you are caught up in the festivities!

Swedish trees decorated with feathers at Easter
Trees decorated with colourful feathers in Sweden

Easter in Sweden

In Sweden, the excitement for Easter begins on Maundy Thursday where children dress up as witches and go around their local area with paintings, asking for sweets in return! Originally, it was only girls who would dress up, but today both boys and girls join in the fun.  Similar to Germany, Swedish families decorate their homes at Easter with twigs and branches that are nicely decorated with feathers and small, colourful eggs. “Smorgasbord” (a buffet-style meal) is popular at Easter time with Swedish families, as they get to try several traditional dishes including meatballs, fish, cheese and cold meats, such as lamb or chicken. Easter eggs in Sweden are slightly different from the ones that are made entirely out of chocolate, in Sweden they are plastic eggs that are filled with sweets. They can be found in nearly every supermarket across the country at Easter time and ‘pick and mix’ style sweets are usually the most popular!

Church bells in France
Church bells in France

Easter in France

Traditionally in France, it isn’t the Easter Bunny who brings treats for the children; it’s the flying bells! French Catholic tradition states that on Good Friday, all of the church bells in France sprout wings and fly down to the Vatican to be blessed by the pope. No church bells ring in France between Good Friday and Easter Sunday to mark the death of Jesus (and because they’ve all flown to the Vatican!) When the bells return to France they deliver treats to well-behaved children including chocolate eggs. The church bells then ring again to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. A rather unusual tradition in France involves an omelette big enough to feed a small village! Every year on Easter Monday, 10,000 people gather in Bessieres to make a giant omelette using 15,000 eggs, a four-meter pan, and 40 cooks. We bet that omelette was a nightmare to flip!

From giant omelette making to water fights on Wet Monday, Easter is a tradition celebrated throughout Europe and worldwide. How will you be celebrating Easter? Will you be taking part in any of the traditions we’ve mentioned, or perhaps you have some other Easter celebrations you’d like to share with us? Let us know below!

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