Easter is the most important festival in the Christian Church. It is a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and can be held between 21st March and 25th April. The exact date is decided by the date of the Sunday after the first full moon that follows the Spring equinox in the northern hemisphere. But what traditions are celebrated in different parts of Europe?
Easter is celebrated for a whole week in Spain, known as Holy Week or Semana Santa. Different regions celebrate it a little differently. For example, there are very glamorous celebrations in Andalusia while other areas such as Castile and Leon are more sombre.
A common feature is the wearing of nazareno or penitential robes during a procession. This is a tunic with a hood that has a conical top and conceals the face of the wearer. The colour depends on the procession. The processions also feature ‘pasos’ or floats with sculptures showing scenes from the Gospel and accompanied by marching bands.
In Germany, Easter is filled with clay bunnies, crocuses, daffodils and branches are decorated with painted eggs. It is both a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus but also of the arrival of Spring. Chocolate eggs and bunnies feature and there are different eggs games for children to try including blowing eggs and decorating the shells. The eggs are then put in a basket for the Osterhase (Easter Bunny) to hide around the house on Easter Saturday night. On Sunday, children then hunt for the eggs and find presents and chocolate eggs.
On Easter Sunday night bonfires are lit to welcome the sun and spring. Much of the wood used comes from old Christmas trees that are saved for the occasion.
Easter is a big holiday in France with its strong Catholic history. Shops are filled with chocolate rabbits, chickens, bells and fish with children waking up on Sunday morning to search for eggs around the house and garden.
Raw egg rolling is another tradition in France – and one that must be done carefully! The egg that reaches the end without being broken is the victory egg and represents the stone being rolled away from the tomb of Christ.
Easter is only second to Christmas in Italy. In the lead up to the weekend, there are solemn processions and masses. Easter Sunday is more joyful and is a public holiday. Processions are held in most cities and towns on Friday or Saturday with many churches having special statues that are brought out for the occasion.
Easter Monday is also a day of celebration with free concerts, dances and unusual games being held. These include the rolling of a 4-kilo cheese around the village walls in Pancale in Umbria. Afterwards there is live music and wine to celebrate!
The Easter holiday starts with Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, when churches are kept dark in memory of the death of Christ. A special service is held on Saturday night called the Easter Vigil and here a special candle called the Paschal Candle is lit.
Easter Sunday is a brightness and celebration. There are often egg hunts where brightly coloured chocolate eggs are hidden for children to find. Easter bunnies also feature prominently due to their connection with the start of spring – children are told the Easter Bunny will leave eggs and other small gifts.
Both Good Friday and Easter Monday are Bank Holidays – this means many people get a day off work and shops are either closed or open reduced hours.
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