Have you already decided how to celebrate Easter? Traditionally or in some original way borrowed from another culture? In the family circle or the company of friends? Will there be children on your holiday and what entertainment awaits them? What will your Easter table be like?
If you have not yet found the answers to these questions for yourself, then we will be happy to share with you some ideas and tell you about the origins and traditions of celebrating Easter in different countries.
Easter is a holiday with ancient history and deep Old Testament roots.
The Jews began celebrating Passover more than 1,000 years before the advent of Christianity as the day for the liberation of the Jews from Egyptian slavery. The entire period of celebration of the Jewish Passover lasts seven days.
According to the Hebrew tradition, a lamb was slaughtered and baked on Passover. They ate it with unleavened bread – matzah and bitter herbs and washed down the meal with four cups of wine. In modern realities, ritual sheep killing had to be abandoned. But matzah, wine, and bitter herbs remained unchanged. There should also be a bowl of salt water on the table – a symbol of the tears shed by mothers when they learned about the Pharaoh’s order to kill all Jewish firstborns.
Catholic and Orthodox Easter
In the Christian tradition, the sacrificial lamb has become a metaphorical image of Jesus Christ, who also sacrificed himself for the salvation of Christians. Bread and wine, respectively, became symbols of his flesh and blood.
After the split of the Christian Church in 1054, differences began to emerge in the Easter traditions of Catholics and Orthodox. So the Orthodox Church determines the date of Easter according to the Julian calendar, while the Catholics like the Gregorian calendar. Hence the discrepancies in the dates of the celebration. Orthodox Great Lent is longer and more severe than the Catholic one. In addition to meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products are excluded from the diet. Also, any bodily pleasures are prohibited.
Making Easter eggs and Easter eggs, which symbolize the beginning of a new life, is a common tradition for all Christians. In the Orthodox Easter basket, in addition to eggs, there should be ham, sausage, cheese, butter, horseradish, salt, and, of course, paska – a symbol of the Kingdom of Heaven and Sunday, the bread of eternal life, which Jesus Christ became for people.
The main dish of the Catholic and Protestant Easter table is a baked rabbit or bird. They are accompanied by cakes and gingerbread in the shape of pigeons, rabbits, and sheep.
The Easter Bunny is also an exclusively Western Christian character. Its prototype is of ancient Germanic origin. The rabbit was a symbol of the goddess of spring and fertility, Eostra, who was revered by the Germans and Anglo-Saxons.
Children adore the Easter Bunny almost as much as they love Santa Claus because he hides the eggs, the search for which turns into an exciting game for children.
You can arrange similar entertainment. And it doesn’t matter where the Easter eggs are hidden – in an apartment or the backyard of a country house – your children will be delighted with such a quest!
The most interesting Easter traditions from different countries
Today, new contexts and new customs have been added to Easter traditions. At the same time, Easter remains one of the most important holidays for all Christian countries, and everywhere they prepare for it specially.
Easter holidays are the time of festivals and fairs in Germany. They take place in different parts of the country, and therefore the Germans willingly travel for the holidays not only in Germany but also abroad. They also love the general atmosphere of this holiday, with its indispensable paraphernalia: Easter eggs, rabbits, the Osterbaum Easter tree, and wreaths decorated with eggs. According to statistics, the Germans buy about 10,000 tons of chocolate rabbits and eggs for the holiday!
Lusatian Serbs living in the east of Germany diligently cherish their Easter traditions. This nation is known for its outstanding skill in coloring Easter eggs.
No less famous is their traditional equestrian religious procession. On Bright Sunday, about one and a half thousand horsemen gather in a grandiose equestrian procession equipped with Easter paraphernalia. The outfits of the participants give a special flavor to the action – black frock coats, white shirts with bow ties, and top hats.
Lusatian women and girls have their special customs. Even before dawn on Bright Sunday, they get together and go to the reservoir for Easter water. They do it secretly and silently – no one talks along the way. They collect water exclusively in earthenware. According to legend, the water obtained in this way has miraculous properties and is able to rejuvenate and heal. You can also check if this belief is true.
On Easter in English churches, just like ours, they hold a service where people come with their Easter Baskets – Easter baskets with sweets.
After the service, the whole family gathers for an Easter dinner to try meatballs in honey-garlic sauce, baked ham, glazed apples, rosemary-garlic butter potatoes, and Easter cake Simnel Cake.
In some regions, there is still a tradition to play football on Easter, using … a small wooden barrel of ale instead of a ball! At the end of the match, ale is drunk.
In Lancashire, Cheshire, Staffordshire, and several other counties, a strange custom has long existed. On Easter Monday, men crossed their arms to form an impromptu “high chair” and raced women through the streets. The next day, the roles changed – now women had to wear men. Such entertainment can be adapted to a country holiday with a large company.
Italy, as the cradle of Catholicism, turns into a real tourist mecca for the Easter holidays. Indeed, on Good Friday, the largest and most spectacular theatrical performance takes place here – the Easter procession, which is based on the biblical Passion of Christ. The participants in the procession consistently reproduce the New Testament events from the Last Supper to the Ascension to Golgotha, immersing observers in the atmosphere of ancient Judea. For vivid impressions, you should go to the islands of Ischia and Sardinia, Sicily, Montefalco, Gualdo Tadino, and Venice.
Traditional Easter dishes, like cuisine in general, differ somewhat depending on the region. In Lombardy, you can try the Italian analog of Easter cake – panettone, in Liguria you will be treated to the Easter pie Torta pasqualina with spinach, ricotta, and quail eggs. In the Italian south, they make a Castello cheese pie and a sweet pastiera pie with candied fruit. And of course, Italian Easter is not complete without Colombo – a pie with almonds in the shape of a dove.
Fried lamb or guinea fowl is served as the main dish. Italians celebrate with their families and love to have Easter picnics. You can also have an Italian-style Easter with an Italian menu and a rustic feel.
Finns, like most Scandinavians, subtly feel their closeness to nature. Therefore, on Easter, most city dwellers leave the stone jungle to spend the holiday with their families in the country.
The Finns have an interesting tradition with a pagan background: on Friday and Saturday before Easter, they burn bonfires en masse. Fire and smoke, according to legend, drive away evil spirits and all evil spirits, because it is at this time that witches and trolls most diligently try to harm people.
On Sunday mornings, Finnish children, mostly girls, dressed as witches, walk around the neighbors’ houses with willow branches, which they exchange for sweets. Thus, the holiday in Finland turns into a symbiosis of Easter and Halloween! This tradition is most popular in the Pohjanmaa region.
For Finns, Easter is also a celebration of spring and a new beginning, so a few weeks before the holiday, Finnish children plant rye seeds in pots. Sprouted rye greens become an element of Easter table decor. Such eco-decor is currently gaining great popularity. Try to decorate your holiday table with greenery, flowers, and other natural elements – they will bring freshness and a spring mood to your home.
Traditional dishes in Finland are lamb roast, cottage cheese and cream Easter, and typical Finnish rye pudding – mämmi. Children enjoy chocolate eggs, as well as figurines of rabbits and chickens.
Cultural and confessional diversity has led to the differences in Easter traditions that we can observe in the United States. And some of these traditions are very difficult to call canonical.
So in Boston for the holidays you can buy a funny puppet of Jesus, Moses, or Queen Esther, who can say phrases from the Bible. Such pleasure costs 10 dollars.
In Washington, on the Monday after Easter, children’s egg rolling competitions are held. And this happens not just anywhere, but on the sloping lawn in front of the White House.
Residents of the “Big Apple” went even further. Every Easter, New York’s Fifth Avenue is taken over by a crazy carnival – the Easter Hat Parade! This strange tradition was started in the middle of the 19th century by parishioners, among whom a fashion arose for the decoration of hats that they wore for the Easter service. Gradually, the parade of hats acquired a humorous coloring and turned into a phantasmagoria in the spirit of Lewis Carroll.
Despite all the extravagant innovations, for most Americans, Easter remains a family holiday with a festive mass, Easter eggs, and other Easter paraphernalia. Suburban residents cook barbecues, while children have fun searching for eggs.
Easter rites in Mexico are full of symbolism. At the beginning of the 40-day fast, on Ash Wednesday, Mexicans attend church to receive a special mark in the form of an ash cross, which the priest inflicts on the forehead of the congregation.
The most famous procession takes place in Mexico City in the Iztapalapa region. A million crowd, with bated breath, watches the realistic reproduction of Christ’s suffering, which is often accompanied by real blood.
In many Mexican towns and villages, the tradition of burning numerous figures of Judas from paper-mâché is still preserved. They are hung along the street and firecrackers are attached to them. At the end of the day, loud destruction awaits on paper Judas.
A vibrant Easter street show with music, dancing, and fireworks continues all day and all night until Monday morning.
A Mexican Easter table wouldn’t be Mexican if there wasn’t something exotic and extravagant on it. The biggest gastronomic shock for tourists is baked lamb heads. They are stuffed with liver, bacon, and fragrant herbs and served with boiled lamb legs, lamb goiters, and croquettes with tongues and brains.
Australians celebrate Easter according to the Catholic calendar, but their holiday will be visited only six months later when spring comes to the southern hemisphere.
A mandatory annual holiday event is the Royal Easter Show, which takes place in Sydney.
Australians celebrate with the whole family, outdoors or at home. Many people use the Easter weekend to travel. The festive period is also considered a good time for marriages and christenings.
It so happened that the Easter Bunny at the Australian holiday is almost persona non grata. All thanks to his fellow tribesmen, who cause catastrophic damage to farmlands. Therefore, the Australians appointed the local animal bilby to be the Easter ambassador. The popularity of Easter bilbies is growing every year, in part due to the activity of environmental organizations calling for the purchase of chocolate bilbies instead of traditional rabbits. The proceeds are used to research and protect these animals.
The traditional Australian Easter menu is nutritious and varied. The main dish is roast lamb, less often beef or chicken. Meat is served with fried vegetables. The Australians also have their special dessert – a cake with meringue and fruits: strawberries, kiwi, pineapples, and tangerines. Australians start the Monday morning after Bright Sunday with hot Easter buns and Hot Cross Bun.
And what do you think, dear readers, is it worth adopting the traditions of other people when it comes to a religious holiday? Would you like to visit the Easter market? Try mutton head and rye pudding – mum? Conduct a “rabbit quest” with the children. Or maybe your family has its unique traditions?
The main thing, in our opinion, is to spend this day in a joyful mood and together with loved ones, because Easter is a bright holiday all year round.