Easter traditions around the world
By M&C News Apr 6, 2007, 21:18 GMT
Christian pilgrims stand with wooden crosses on the Via Dolorosa during Good Friday processions in Jerusalem on Friday 06 April 2007. Thousands of pilgrims, clergy, tourists and local Christians took part in retracing Jesus\' footsteps to his crucifixion, as all Christian demominations celebrate Easter at the same day of year. EPA/JIM HOLLANDER
Easter is a major religious festival of Christians celebrated in a grand manner with feasts, fasting and prayer. Every nation has its own way of celebrating a particular festivity.
Easter Traditions in USA
In the New Orleans, it is a trend of conducting an annual Easter carnival called 'Mardi Gras', which features lot of fun activities like parade, jazz music bands and a bumper party.
A must play Easter game for American kids is Easter egg roll.
A special dish for Easter springtime in USA is baked ham, potatoes and vegetables. Another most demanding recipe is hot cross buns.
It was in the early 1700's, when for the first time, eggs were dyed and the credit for starting this practice in America can be attributed to Pennsylvania Dutch (German) settlers.
As a part of Easter traditions in the US, sunrise services are held and the prime motive is to include various Christian religious groups in this event.
Painting the Easter eggs and then conducting Easter egg hunt games for the kids is what most American parents do on the Easter week.
Easter Traditions in the United Kingdom
Many of British Easter traditions are remnants of pre-Christian fertility rituals.
Until the beginning of the Second World War skipping was performed on Parker’s Piece in Cambridge. The spinning of rope for skipping represented the turning seasons. Families would turn up and the men would turn the ropes whilst the women jumped, with children often joining in too. Sounds like good, clean fun to me!
The name Easter comes from 'Oestre', the Anglo-Saxon goddess of fertility and springtime.
There are country-wide Easter traditions, such as giving Easter eggs, Easter bread and hot cross buns
A common Easter custom is the baking of bread and hot cross buns on Good Friday.
In the Cambridge Folk Museum there is a piece of Good Friday bread baked in 1919 in the village of West Wratting.
The Welsh customarily decorated the graves of family members and friends on Easter Saturday. Decked with flowers, the graveyard became a reminder of the promise that, because of Christ's resurrection, Christians also will one day be raised from the dead.
Easter in India
Even though the Christian population in India constitutes approximately 3% of the total population the festival of Easter is celebrated with fanfare and religious zeal. Christians all over the country, especially in Mumbai, Goa and the Northeastern states, make elaborate arrangements for Easter festivities. Worshippers throng the churches for special prayers and rituals.
Easter celebration in India dates back to the British colonies in India. The Portuguese and French too. During Easter, Easter eggs and bunnies are sold in stores, and people exchange these items with each other.
Good Friday is a compulsory public holiday declared by the government of India.
Easter in Mexico
Good Friday features a recreation of the Via Crucis, (the Way of the Cross) on Viernes Santo -- Holy Friday. This may be an all-day event involving a cast of hundreds of amateur performers playing key roles in the Biblical story that reaches its climax with a simulated crucifixion. Solemn processions occur in which most of the populace participates as penitents. In addition, the Virgin Mary´s pain and suffering at the loss of her son may be recalled with the display of an Altar de Dolores--an Altar of Sorrows.
The greatest of the holy vigils celebrated during the liturgical year is the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Frequently this includes a solemn evening mass during which each communicant lights a candle at the altar, holding it throughout the remainder of the ceremony. Following mass, participants may gather outside the church for some comic relief with the raucous burning of papier maché effigies of Los Judas.
Figures are hung up in the street or the central town plaza. Once the public has gathered, they are ignited in quick succession and, to the delight of all, are literally blown to bits, thereby symbolizing the triumph of good over evil.
Easter in Mexico and for all Christian churches is the most important day of the entire year. Since all Roman Catholics are expected to attend mass and take Holy Communion to mark the holiday, every celebration held in each of the thousands of churches throughout Mexico will be packed with celebrants on this day.. The church bells will once again peal, now with especially joyous fervor. With church attendance at all-time highs, the Mexicans do not celebrate with bunnies, jelly beans but take vacation during this time. Mexican schools are generally closed for the entire two-week period comprising Semana Santa and Semana de Pascua--Holy Week and Easter Week.
Easter in Poland
Holy Week begins on Easter Thursday, and at Cracow's Wawel Cathedral and cathredrals nationwide, bishops wash the feet of twelve elderly men in an echo of Christ's gesture towards the apostles at the Last Supper. The following day, Good Friday, is one of the most intensely religious days of the year, and Cracow's churches will fill up with the faithful. The tone is deeply mournful, recalling Christ's crucifixion on this day.
Easter Saturday is a festive occasion, and from mid-morning, as mentioned earlier, there will be a constant trail of families coming to and from Cracow's many churches. This blessing of the little baskets of victuals, a custom known as 'swiecone' (literally 'blessed') will include in the basket includes eggs, salt, cake, sausage and bread, but there will also be painted eggs and always a small model of a lamb.
Easter Sunday itself revolves around the home, and food that was blessed in church the previous day is consumed in an elaborate extended family breakfast, often involving a dash of alcohol.
Easter in Portugal
Easter in Portugal is celebrated with sweet bread called Folar da Pascoa. The bread is usually served at breakfast on Easter morning but more often as a dessert after Easter dinner.
On Easter Sunday Portuguese serve a meat plate at the dinner table as the feature dish. Roasted pig 'Leitao' is popular accompanied by roasted potatoes and other vegetables, along with fresh bread.
A popular sweet served during Easter is a candied almond dish called Amendoas, which usually come in a mixture of colors. Our traditional greeting is Boa Pascoa -- Happy Easter!"
Easter in Scandinavia
Travel to Scandinavia during the Easter holidays and find countries filled with the spring's energy. Everywhere, you can see colorful Easter decorations like painted eggs and chickens, lovingly created by young and old.
Denmark's Easter Traditions include a fish or lamb feast and anonymous letters. Also, there are snowdrop flowers involved and people can win eggs.
Sweden's Easter Traditions indicate that the family feast is on Easter Saturday (Holy Saturday) - not on Sunday, as in the other countries. (Preferably eating Smörgåsbord.) According to Swedish folklore, during Easter the witches fly to the Blue Mountain to meet the devil which has a big influence on today's Easter traditions in Sweden.
Norway's Easter Traditions are always good news for Norwegians: they have the longest Easter weekend in all of Scandinavia.
Iceland's Easter Traditions are less public an event, and more family time spent with loved ones. Children receive chocolate eggs, and families get together for an Easter dinner.
Easter in Greece
Easter is the biggest celebration of the Orthodox Christians and the one richest in folklore. The word “Pascha”, Easter in Greek, stems from the Jewish “Pasah” which means “Passover”. Jewish people celebrated “Pasah” to commemorate their liberation from the Egyptians and the passage of the Red sea, while Christians celebrate the resurrection of Christ the Saviour and the passage from death to life. The corresponding Greek word for “Pascha” is “Lambrí” (Brightness) because the day of the resurrection of Christ is a day full of joy and exhilaration.
Easter is a moveable holiday. Its celebration falls on the first Sunday after the full moon of the spring equinox. All over the country a plethora of customs and traditions are observed during the week prior to Easter (Holy Week).
The preparations for the celebration of the Resurrection start on Holy Thursday. On that day women traditionally prepare tsourekia (sweet buns resembling brioche) and colored eggs with special red dyes.
Thursday before Easter, bright dyed red eggs are prepared. Some place a red egg in the centre of a loaf of tsoureki before baking. A traditional soup called mayaritsa is prepared early Saturday, and eaten after midnight mass on Saturday night.
Friday is the most sacred day of the Holy Week, the day of the culmination of the passion of Christ with the deposition from the cross and Christ’s burial. People do not do any house chores, avoiding cooking too. Women and children go to church to decorate the Epitaph (Bier of Christ) with flowers they collect or buy. In the morning of Good Friday, Christ’s Burial is reenacted in church and in the evening the Epitaph procession takes place.
On Easter Saturday morning, preparations start for the festive dinner of the night of the Resurrection and housewives cook “maghiritsa”. Shortly before midnight, people gather in church holding white candles which they light with the “Holy Light” distributed by the priest. When the latter chants “Christ is risen” (Christós Anesti), people exchange wishes and the so-called “Kiss of Love”. With the “Holy Light” of the candles they thrice make the sign of the cross on the door post over the front door of their houses for good luck. On Easter Sunday it's traditional to prepare lamb. Other items found on our menu include spinach and cheese pies, lemon roasted potatoes, greens and seafood, vegetable and rice dishes, breads, cakes and much more.
Easter in Italy
Italian families have several traditions and unique cultural customs. Like most countries, Easter starts on Good Friday, when the entire family comes together for a meatless meal of seafood misto -- a combination of jumbo shrimps, scallops, calamari and mussels -- on the table.
After dinner it's customary to serve freshly brewed espresso with the traditional pastries of cannoli, panettone and tiramisu.
Easter Sunday the typical Italian family gathers again for a feast of lamb, a special stuffed or layered pasta dishes such as lasagne and manicotti. For dessert it's customary to serve a sweet bread embedded with hard-boiled eggs and hot cross buns.
Easter in France
Easter is called Pâques in France. It is one of the most important holiday celebrations for French children.
The children receive colorfully decorated eggs. The French begin their Easter season several weeks before Easter actually begins. Shop windows are decorated in a festive collection of white and dark chocolate rabbits, chickens, bells and fish. Much of this occurs in other countries, but bells and fish are an important part of the French Easter tradition.
Chickens and rabbits are popular Easter symbols in many countries. Bells and fish are an important part of the French Easter tradition. French Easter fish are called "Poisson d'Avril". Chocolate fish are available in most shops. The real "Poisson d'Avril", however, appearance on April 1st. French children play an 'April Fool's' trick. They stick a paper fish ono the back of as many adults as possible--most of whom are quite tolerant. The children then run away yelling "Poisson d'Avril!" which means "April Fish".
Cloche volant or Flying Bells are another important part of the French Easter tradition. French Catholics have a tradition that on Good Friday all the church bells in France miraculously fly to the Vatican in Rome. They carry with them all the misery and grief of those who mourn Jesus' crucifixion on that day. These flying French bells then return on Easter morning in time for the celebration of Jesus' resurrection. The bells bring with them chocolate and eggs which are left in yards for the children to collect in their baskets when they wake up in the morning. In keeping with the tradition, French church bells do not ring from Good Friday to Easter morning.
Easter in Germany
German Easter traditions are very important, Easter along with Christmas is the most important holiday in Germany. On this sacred day all Christians celebrate the resurrection of Christ from the grave. This is the greatest and most joyful event of the year for the believers, when the tragedy of Jesus' crucifixion on Good Friday was healed by the message of the angel at the empty tomb "He is not here. He is risen!"
Allegedly "Easter" originates from an ancient Anglo-Saxon goddess of the dawn named "Eastre", "Eostre", or "Ostara".
The time of celebration is very special and determined by the Church on the Sunday, following the Vernal Equinox. Thus Easter is always the first Sunday, after the first full Moon, after the Vernal Equinox. If Easter Sunday were to fall on the Full Moon itself, Easter will be postponed to the following Sunday instead. Thus, honoring of Christ coincides with awakening of the nature to the new life after the wintry sleep.
In German households there is Spring cleaning and decorations are brought into the home, budding twigs, crocuses and daffodils, willow and birch, the first shoots of grasses, or wheat sprouts. Easter trees, small trees or branches, decorated with eggs, have long been a part of German Easter celebration. An major part of the holiday is the intricate Easter meal served after a long period of severe fasting.