Happy Easter, everyone!
For the Christian community, Lent is the most sacred time of the year. It culminates on Easter Sunday. The death and resurrection of Christ is, after all, what sets Christianity apart from other religious belief systems in the world. Today, many have come to associate Easter with the Easter bunny and colorfully decorated eggs.
For people who have grown accustomed to bunnies and Easter eggs hunts on Easter Sunday, it would be fun to know that some people in other countries celebrate Easter Sunday differently. In most countries though, the Easter egg is a major part of the celebration. The egg is a symbol of life and rebirth. As it is, you look at an egg as something lifeless, however, inside it is a living thing, waiting for the right time to hatch and be born. Most communities take its symbolism and use it to represent Christ rising from the dead.
Easter also coincides with spring break for many of those going to school, which either means spending time with loved ones, or having fun with friends in destinations unknown. However, Lent and Easter are a celebration of the death and resurrection of Christ in the Christian community, giving the holiday a more meaningful aspect.
Here’s how Easter is celebrated all over the world.
At the Vatican, the Pope celebrates Easter with a special mass attended by thousands of devotees all over the world who gather at St. Peter’s Square. At the start of the service, the basilica lights aren’t fully turned on to signify the tomb of Christ before his actual resurrection. Later on, the Pope lights candles, while the songs during the mass are sung in Latin. People also wait for the Pope to give his blessing, the “Urbi et Orbi,” which translates to “To the City and to the World” from the balcony of the church.
Since many citizens of Hispanic countries are Catholics, Lent is celebrated with much fervor. Easter is called Cuaresma. Foot washing is done as early as Holy Thursday, flowed by a blessing of the Bread, called Pan Bendito, which is served after a mass. Another practice is called the Via Crucis, which translates to “Way of the Cross”. A procession of sorts is done, called Siete Palabras meditations, wherein devotees pray on the seven last words of Christ. There are also those who practice Pesame, wherein prayers are said to the Virgin Mary as Our Lady of Sorrows.
White House, USA
For over a hundred years since 1878, the White House has been hosting the Easter Egg Roll, one of the many activities during the annual whole-day family event on the South Lawn of the White House. It is hosted by the First Family.
Louisiana in the United States
People hold an egg knocking competition, which dates back to the 1950s. On the steps of the courthouse competitors pair up and knock the tips of their eggs by tapping it on the other egg. The person whose egg cracks forfeits the game. It continues until only one egg remains intact.
The Norwegians enjoy the Lenten holiday in a different manner. Since Maundy Thursday to Easter Monday is a public holiday, many go on vacations, taking with them detective novels and crime thrillers, called Paaskekrim, which translates to Easter crime. The practice of reading crime thrillers during Lent is believed to be a reflection of the death of Christ.
Visitors to Sweden may think that the Swedes are celebrating Halloween instead of Easter since the children dress up as witches and hags and go door to door asking for treats. The tradition stems from the belief that witches used to fly over church bell towers on the evening of Easter using their broomsticks. The young children are given either a coin or some candy as they go from neighbor to neighbor.
Finland and Denmark
Young children go around the neighborhood begging for eggs and candies. Their faces are sooty and scarves are tied around their heads. They carry with them coffeepots, pussy willow twigs and broomsticks, which they exchange for the Easter goodies. In other areas of Finland bonfires are burned on Easter Sunday to shoo away witches on broomsticks. Rye grass is planted in a pot in Finland to symbolize new life and the coming of spring.
France, Belgium and the Netherlands
Church bells will be ringing on Easter Sunday after being silent days before Easter.
It has been a tradition to cook a giant omelet on Easter Monday. The town square swarms with people on this day, to eat part of the giant omelet that normally uses up to 4,500 eggs. It could feed about 1,000 people. It’s a tradition that started during the time of Napoleon Bonaparte.
Germans celebrate Easter Sunday by making Easter egg trees, where several decorated eggs are hanged. Water wells or fountains are also decorated with eggs. The tradition is called Osterbrunnen that gives honor to water, which is essential for life. The most famous is the one done in Fränkische Schweiz.
A traditional addition to the Easter food served by Polish Catholics is a butter lamb or Baranek wielkanocny. It is literally butter formed through a mold or by hand in the shape of a lamb.
Northern Ireland, North of England and Scotland
People celebrate the day by rolling decorated Easter eggs down the hills.
Young boys gather firewood around the neighborhood, to compete on which group could build the biggest bonfire on a church or school ground. A small doll that represents Judas Iscariot is burned in the fire.
Eastern and Central parts of Europe
Ethnic groups traditionally decorate the eggs they use for Easter. The decorations are as intricate, colorful and detailed as any work of art.
Slovakia and the Czech Republic
Men spank women on Easter Monday, not to hurt them but to keep them beautiful and healthy the whole year. They use a handmade whip made up of eight, twelve or twenty-four pieces of willow rods with colorful ribbons tied on each end. The whip is called korbáč in Slovak and pomlázka in Czech. A spanked woman usually gives the man a colored egg as a thank you gift. They get their turn in the afternoon or the next day by pouring cold water on the men.
Croatia and Slovenia
Croats and Slovenians bring a basket of food to church. It includes colored eggs, ham, bread, horseradish and potica (nut cake). They want to have the food blessed before they eat it.
(Such as Northern Serbia-Vojvodina, Southern Slovakia, Transylvania, Kárpátalja and of course Hungary)
Easter Monday, called Locsoló Hétfő, which translates to Watering Monday is celebrated by people sprinkling water, perfumed water or perfume on each other. An Easter egg is exchanged afterwards.
Bermuda (a British Overseas Territory)
The tradition is to fly a kite on Easter Sunday, symbolizing the ascent of Jesus Christ to heaven. They also eat Easter eggs, fish cakes and hot cross buns.
Instead of Easter eggs, Jamaicans exchange and eat the Jamaica Easter Buns, a loaf bread with spices and raisins. These are sliced and eaten with cheese.