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Easter in Britain is renowned for its annual traditions. But how is Easter celebrated around Europe? With a mix of culture, tradition and beliefs, it’s no wonder countries in Europe have all developed their own individual way of celebrating the holiday. From Saint Peter’s Basilica ceremonies in Italy to decorating Croatian Easter eggs, learn more about Easter around Europe today.
Easter is a widely celebrated holiday throughout Portugal. Festivities will begin at the start of Holy Week – which is Palm Sunday – with Good Friday being a staple day for celebration in the country. On this day, Portuguese people often fast from meat and, in some regions, eat a customary plate of codfish and vegetables for dinner.
For the feast on Easter Sunday, a braided sweet bread called Folar de Páscoa is baked during Holy Week. Fluffy in texture, this bread has hard boiled eggs nestled into the top, tucked underneath the braided portion – which adds a decorative Easter twist to the bread. This is usually accompanied with sweets such as almond candies or chocolate covered bunnies.
Easter in Italy
Travelling to Italy for Easter? You’ll spot the difference between British and Italian Easter traditions immediately – starting with a distinct lack of the famous Easter bunny, or participation in our much-loved Easter egg hunts. A huge holiday nationwide, Italians celebrate through joyous parades where participants often dress up in traditional ancient costumes. Olive branches and palm fronds are used in the processions, and also to decorate churches.
Good Friday traditions involve the Pope celebrating the Via Crucis near the Colosseum, while a huge cross with burning torches lights up the sky. Easter mass is held in every church in Italy – including the largest ceremony which is celebrated by the Pope at Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City. Whereas, celebrations on Easter Monday involve more jovial festivities including dances and free concerts.
Did you know, Croatia Easter preparations last 40 days? The preparation for this holiday lasts up until Palm Sunday, and then Holy Week celebrations begin until Easter Monday. In Croatia, decorating a Pisanica – a Croatian Easter egg – is a popular Easter activity, stemming from an old Slavic custom dating back to Pagan times. Painted in bright colours, Pisanicas would be given as gifts to celebrate the festive period. The most common phrase put on Pisanica is “Sretan Uskrs” – meaning Happy Easter. Doves, crosses, flowers and slogans wishing health and happiness are also commonly used for decoration.
Celebratory games are played on Easter Sunday which involve two people choosing eggs and holding them vertically, while one person lightly taps the other end of the egg. Whoever holds the strongest egg – whichever has not cracked – wins the game!
Easter in Finland
In Finland, Easter is often associated with witches! Answering the door on Palm Sunday may lead you to come face to face with young little witches offering to bless your home in return for sweets. Children, especially girls, paint freckles on their face and dress up in colourful clothes bringing willow twigs decorated with colourful feathers as blessings to drive away evil spirits.
Chocolate Easter eggs are often given to these young witches as a thanks for their blessing. Almost Halloween-esque, this traditional is popular among Croatian households.
Did you know, there’s a strict no-party policy on Good Friday in Iceland? Easter festivities are prohibited on Föstudagurinn Langi" or “The Long Friday” – meaning that bars, clubs and recreational gatherings close at midnight on Maundy Thursday and do not re-open until after midnight on Good Friday. The exceptions to this rule are theatre productions, concerts and cultural events. However, to protest these rules, a game of Bingo has become a tradition on Good Friday which goes against the rules of no-party policy.
And Icelandic Easter cuisine? The Easter egg is a staple tradition of Easter in Iceland – the chocolate is stuffed with Icelandic candy and a proverb can be found inside each egg, almost like Chinese fortune cookies.
Food and celebrations are a staple part of celebrating Easter in Greece! On Maundy Thursday, ovens prepare for the traditional tsoureki – a fragrant Easter brioche – alongside Easter cookies, known as lamprokouloura. Holy Saturday involves the Mikri Anastasi – the first resurrection service – which is celebrated by bells chiming, bands playing and a parade in the town streets. Locals drop clay pots from windows and balconies as a celebratory tradition – creating a lively atmosphere among the towns!
Pascha Sunday celebrates the Vespers of Love – and all families roast lamb on a spit or coal while cracking red eggs, and then sit down for a large family feast. Souvla – a large piece of lamb, pork or chicken – is cooked on an open charcoal fire served alongside an array of delectable Easter treats such as salads, cakes and sweets. However, lamb is the main traditional Easter meal – which is a popular Easter cuisine across Greece.
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