Easter Traditions Around the World
Easter celebrations vary around the world. From dyeing colorful eggs to dancing around them, every country has a unique celebratory connection to the holiday. While in some countries the religious celebrations are marked with huge processions and celebrations, in other locales it is marked in a more sedate manner.
Let’s take a look at some of the various international traditions.
- Easter is usually associated with spring and new birth, but in Australia, Easter is celebrated during autumn and associated with the golden hues of trees.
- Unlike many other countries, the rabbit in Australia is not considered as an Easter symbol, as it is often responsible for agricultural destructions. Therefore, the Australians came up with their own Easter animal – Bilby, an endangered marsupial with rabbit-like ears.
- Chocolate hot-cross buns and Easter bilbies are popular Easter fare.
- A rhythmic traditional folk-dance called “Morris Dancing” celebrates the season with 6 varieties of choreographed steps.
- Easter bonnets were popular, especially in times past, when women would make and wear their own bonnets.
- Hot cross buns are served on Good Friday and Simnel cake (fruit cake with eleven marzipan balls on top that represent all the apostles but Judas), is served on Easter Sunday to help break the Lenten fast.
- Maundy Thursday is celebrated by Christians on the Thursday before Easter, and includes blessing of holy oils and often the washing of the feet. The Monarch offers ‘alms’ or coins to senior citizens.
- A game called ‘egg tapping’ is sometimes played in the North of England, where players hit other players’ eggs and the winner is the one whose egg breaks last.
- Similar processions take place in Colombia, where the Nazarenos wear purple hooded robes decorated with white crosses.
- Candle-lit processions are held and brass bands play throughout the spectacular celebrations.
- The Easter bunny is not a common site in France, except for in Alsace.
- In France, Easter celebrations are marked with the ‘April fish’, which makes its appearance on 1st of April or April’s fool Day. Children play tricks with the paper fish by secretly sticking them on to people’s backs.
- Lamb is traditionally served for Easter dinner.
- A few regions consider eating eggs on Easter are bad luck. Then there are towns such as Haux, where each year a giant omelet is served up in the town’s main square. When we say giant, we mean G-I-A-N-T: The omelet uses more than 4,500 eggs and feeds up to 1,000 people. The story goes, when Napoleon and his army were traveling through the south of France, they stopped in a small town and ate omelets. Napoleon liked his so much that he ordered the townspeople to gather their eggs and make a giant omelet for his army the next day.
- The tradition of ‘Osterhase’ (Easter bunny) is actually believed to originate from Germany
- The summer day parade, or Sommertagszug, is celebrated three weeks before Easter. The Easter market (Ostermarket) also takes place, where people can pick up Easter-themed products and crafts.
- The Osterbrunnen is an Easter fountain – you’ll find it in Franken in Germany, and it involves decorating a fountain with garlands and decorated eggs.
- The ‘egg dance’ is often played – eggs are laid on the ground and people dance among them while trying not to damage them.
- The Osterbaum or Easter tree is also popular in Germany, which involves Easter eggs being hung from trees or large branches.
- Easter Sunday is traditionally spent with family. Starting out the day at church with a ‘Gebackene Osterlammin’ basket, a baked cake in the form of a lamb. The lamb is placed on the steps of the altar and after the service, a Priest blesses the collection of baskets and this is taken back home to share with the family, typically on Easter Monday.
- Easter celebrations are a big thing for Greek Orthodox. In Corfu, locals throw pots onto streets and out of their windows to ward off evil spirits.
- Holy Week and Easter is very important. Friday being the most sacred day, people don’t do any chores, and women and kids decorate the Bier of Christ (Epitaph) with flowers, and Christ’s burial is reenacted. On Saturday, before midnight, people gather in the churches holding a white candle, which are light with the “Holy Light”.
- Painted red eggs are served on the traditional ‘tsoureki’, an intricate sweet bread.
- An Easter festival is held in Antigua, a tradition brought to the country by Spanish missionaries in the 1700s. It involves a week of celebrations, including a procession traveling through the town.
- People gather to carry huge holy statues and a shrine is constructed every year.
- Hungarians celebrate Easter with an old pagan tradition of ‘Easter sprinkling’ that was believed to improve fertility and involved men pouring water over women. Present day, the water has been replaced by perfume, which is sprayed on women’s hair.
- Smoked ham, roasted meats, hard boiled eggs and pickled horseradish are traditional Hungarian fare found on Easter.
- The Irish often prepared for the coming of Easter by spring cleaning their home, buying new clothes and beauty treatments.
- In the past, a mock funeral for a herring would be held on Easter Saturday, which marked the end of the Lenten period where Catholics would abstain from eating red meat.
- In Florence, the Easter Sunday celebration involves a parade through the town, during which a cart is exploded to help ensure a good harvest.
- Easter processions are also popular in Italy, with confraternities in traditional costumes journeying through the streets and brass bands playing in Enna in Sicily.
- A cross of thorns, the urn of the Dead Christ and the statue of Our Lady of Sorrows are carried through Enna.
- In the Umbrian town of Panicale, cheese is the star, where men play the gam of ‘ruzollone’ by rolling huge wheels of cheese around the village walls.
- Lamb and goat alongside special Easter breads that vary from region to region are very popular on the tables throughout Italy on Easter. Pannetone and Colomba (dove shaped) breads are often given as gifts, as are hollow chocolate eggs.
- Easter is the most important religious holiday in the Orthodox calendar. It is the time for family gatherings, celebrations and a lot of food, since Easter is the end of lent season!
- A game of egg-knocking is played – everyone in the family picks a hard boiled egg, chooses a partner and then they knock the eggs. The winner is the last standing person with a whole egg!
- Traditionally, people take painted eggs to church, with the most popular color being red which religiously symbolizes Christ’s blood.
- ‘Pasca’, a traditional Easter sweet bread and stuffed lamb is served at home.
- Easter celebrations start out a little strange in Norway. ‘Passkekrim’ involves a game of solving crimes and is played to celebrate the holiday. During the Easter season even the cartons of milk have mystery murder stories on their sides.
- Oddly, the Norwegians food of choice at Easter is something that does not even grow in their country – oranges, that are either eaten raw or baked in cakes.
- As in other countries, Easter is very family centric. One funny Paraguayan tradition is that it’s customary to play lightly spanking the kids on the bumm and saying ‘Pascuas’. This is to make up for the fact that on Holy Thursday and Friday it is not allowed to punish children, speak loudly or listen to music, all of which are allowed once again on Easter Sunday.
- Eating chocolates is very important during Easter Sunday celebrations. Families gather and give out chocolate eggs to each other; there is normally one huge chocolate egg in the middle of the table that is broken and shared at the end of the meal.
- One traditional Paraguayan food that is prepared and given out on the days before Easter is ‘Chipa’, baked cheese-flavoured rolls, that during Easter are baked in animal forms to give out to neighbors, this is known as Chipa Lopi in Guarani.
- Philippines celebrate with processions that begin at dawn. One is full of children dress up as angels, another procession is for men that follow an image of resurrected Christ, and in the last one women carry the image of a black-veil-clad Mother Mary. When all of the processions meet at the church, the angels remove the veil from Mary’s face and the festivities can start.
- The crucifixion of Christ is renacted in the Philippines at Easter time. This practice is not encouraged by the church but takes place on Good Friday and involves the real-life nailing to the cross of volunteers.
- Pouring water on one another is a Polish Easter tradition called Smingus-Dyngus. On Easter Monday, boys try to drench other people with buckets of water, squirt guns or anything they can get their hands on. Legend says girls who get soaked will marry within the year. The refreshing tradition has its origins in the baptism of Polish Prince Mieszko on Easter Monday in 966 AD
- Easter is celebrated in dramatic ways throughout Spain, from processions of religious statues to the drum chorus in Calanda.
- Holy Week is called Semana Santa, and Semana Santa in Andalucia sees the ‘nazarenos’ in traditional hoods and masks following processions.
- The Danza de la Muerte (Dance of Death) takes place in Verges, Gerona, on Holy Thursday and harks back to the Black Death in the 14th century. It involves five people dressed as skeletons touring the town and scaring many in their path.
- A tradition that is shared around the world is also popular in The United States, dyeing Easter eggs.
- A European tradition brought to ‘The New World’ by settlers is the Easter Egg Roll. It is celebrated at the White House annually where children roll easter eggs down the White House lawn.
What are your Easter traditions? Share them with us on the comments section below: