There are two events in the Christian calendar that are significantly important. The first one is Christmas, which celebrates the birth of Christ. The second one is Easter, which commemorates the death and resurrection of Jesus.
There are different ways that people celebrate Easter. There are some that send Easter greeting cards. Some prepare and give Easter eggs, with many people of all ages enjoying an Easter egg hunt. Some even take a family vacation during Easter. Some celebrate it with solemnity while others mark the occasions with pomp and fun. Millions of people will be celebrating Easter this weekend, and this is an opportune time to see how the Christians around the world celebrate this occasion.
Germany's term for Easter follows the Anglo-Saxon name for the goddess of spring – Eostre, with the holy day being called Ostern.
It is believed that the tradition of boiling and painting the eggs in various colors originated from Germany, since they have been observing the tradition long before the people of Britain practiced the tradition. It seems like the tales about the Easter bunny also came from Germany, where the earliest record of its mention was in the 16th century.
Germans enjoy a long weekend during Easter, from Good Friday until Easter Monday. They eat a traditional fish dish on Good Friday and have an Easter egg hunt on Sunday, with parents hiding toys, chocolates, bunnies and colorfully decorated eggs for their children to find. Germans greet each other with Frohe Ostern or Happy Easter.
The Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, Mardi Gras is held in France. For the French, this is called Fat Tuesday, the last time they could eat anything before Lent. The oldest Mardi Gras carnival was held in Nice.
Pacques is the French term for Easter. France is predominantly a Roman Catholic country so on Maundy Thursday, all the Catholic churches in France are forbidden to ring their bells to acknowledge and mourn the death of Christ. On Easter morning, all the churches' bells toll in joyous celebration of Christ's resurrection and in several French villages, people kiss and embrace each other, exchanging greetings of Bonnes Pâques or Joyeuses Pâques. Just like in other places, the French also have Easter eggs, bunnies and chocolates.
Semana Santa is the Spanish term for Holy Week and the Spaniards are known for their Holy Week traditions. On Ash Wednesday, churchgoers line up to have their foreheads marked with ash in the form of a small cross. Many people attend mass on Palm Sunday, waving palm leaves to commemorate the arrival of Christ in Jerusalem. Before Easter Sunday, there are many processions where people wear the penitential robe called nazareno.
The Easter story is retold in processions held in several towns and cities in Spain. People would be carrying tronos or floats on their shoulders, decorated with plenty of fresh flowers and a religious statue dressed in lavish costumes.
In Murcia, one trono depicts the Last Supper and carried by 26 men. The float has real food that the float bearers get to eat after the lengthy procession, which could be from four to five hours long.
Thousands of drummer boys accompany processions in Southern Spain while the biggest and grandest processions are traditionally held in Seville.
The Lenten Season is a bigger celebration in Italy. They also have a long bank holiday weekend, with many people taking the opportunity to go on a vacation. Still, Italian cities and towns are celebrating Pasqua. Italians greet one another with Buona Pasqua and refer to the Easter bunny as il coniglietto pasquale.
The Italian's celebration of Easter is like in Spain, from solemn to something more festive, joyous and fun. Italians hold religious procession on Good Friday and Black Saturday and also on Easter Sunday, with special statues of Jesus and Mary central to the processions. Often, people participating in the processions also wear ancient and traditional costumes.
The Pope celebrates the Stations of the Cross (Via Crusis) on Good Friday in various languages. Easter mass is said in every church in the country but the most popular and bigger mass is the one that is presided by the Pope at the St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. After Easter mass, the Pope gives his Easter blessings or bendizione di Pasqua.
Brazil has one of the world's biggest party before Lent officially begins. Before Ash Wednesday, Brazil stages the Carnival in Rio. The Sambódromo is a mile-long parade where local Samba dance troupes participate in one huge, fantastic event, with participants decked in some of the most awe-catching, colorful and creative costumes you can find, dancing to samba music. The parade is also a contest among the participating Samba schools.
The actual Holy Week rituals include the blessings of intricately woven palm fronds on Palm Sunday and a host of religious processions with the Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ and other saints.
Close to 90% of Mexicans are Catholics, which means that Holy Week is one of the most important holidays in their calendar. While the forms of celebration vary, most of them commemorate the life and times of Christ on earth, his trials, death and resurrection. Starting with Ash Wednesday reenactments of Christ’s life are retraced. They reenact the crucifixion of Christ on Good Friday, hold Stations of the Cross procession, the largest of which is in Iztapalapa. On Holy Saturday (Sabado de Gloria) people attach firecrackers to paper and cardboard figures that are included in the parade. They burn these figures later.
While people around the world, particularly the children enjoy going on Easter egg hunts and families eat festive dinners, the highlight of the Easter celebration for Mexicans is attending the Easter morning mass, followed by a quiet family celebration.
How do you celebrate Easter? Share your ideas with us.
To all of you celebrating Easter wherever you are in the world, we wish you a Happy Easter!