Happy Easter! At Language Insight, we love learning about different cultures. In this blog, we will be looking at some Easter traditions in different countries throughout Europe…
We are sad that some of these traditions will not be taking place this year due to COVID-19, but we are hopeful that they resume next year!
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 cross made of candles lights up the sky and the stations, commemorating Jesus Christ’s last day, 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 and boiled eggs and an Easter cake known as “la colomba” (which means dove, a symbol of peace). Hollow chocolate eggs are also given as gifts especially to children and they usually have a surprise inside. As you can guess Kinder sell a lot of their products during Easter!)
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 a 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 German 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!
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”. 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.
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 symbolic substitutes are made instead – they’re normally made from the branches of native trees, including willow, yew and olive trees and decorated with ribbons or dried flowers. In some Polish towns, palm competitions are held, the most famous taking place in Lipnica Murowana, where the highest palm measured to be over 32 meters (105 feet) tall. 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. In some regions parents also splash water on their single daughters first thing in the morning, which is meant to bring luck in finding a partner. So if you’re ever in Poland at 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!
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!
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! One year on Easter Monday, 10,000 people gathered 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 throwing water on Wet Monday, Easter is a holiday that is celebrated throughout Europe and worldwide. Happy Easter!