MANY countries in Europe celebrate Easter in Spring. For Christians, Easter is a celebration of Jesus giving his life for his people on the cross and his resurrection afterwards. But for even for non-Christians, Easter represents the beginning of Spring and celebrates new life and new beginnings. This year, Easter weekend begins in two days on the 14th April. So, here is a handy overview of how five European countries celebrate Easter…
In the UK, Easter begins with Pancake Day at the start of Lent. Traditionally this day is there to use up all excess food in the house by putting them into pancakes before fasting for lent. Nowadays, most people in the UK celebrate Pancake Day even if they have no intention of giving anything up… purely because any excuse for an evening of pancakes is a good enough reason!
Lent is the 40 day and night period on the lead up to Easter. It is to represent the 40 nights that, according to the Bible, Jesus spent fasting in the desert. It’s common now for people to use lent as a time to give up an indulgent food they like, such as chocolate or crisps.
Good Friday and Easter Monday are bank holidays in the UK, meaning a lot of people have them off work. School and university holidays also correlate to the Easter dates. Easter egg hunts are common across the UK for children. The eggs are either painted real eggs or chocolate ones. Chocolate eggs and the Easter bunny are American additions to the tradition and are now common parts of Easter festivities in the UK and across the world.
Christians are likely to attend a church service on Easter Sunday celebrating Jesus and his sacrifice. It is common for everyone, religious and non-religious, to have a large family meal of roast lamb for lunch on Easter Sunday.
Easter is an important festival in Spanish culture: the prominence of Catholicism in Spain means that Easter is taken more seriously than it is in the UK and some other European countries. Spaniards celebrate Semana santa or holy week for the entire week before Easter Sunday. This is a Catholic tradition where Catholic brotherhoods and fraternities lead processions around towns and cities across Spain. Whilst it is a religious festival, Semana Santa is enjoyed by everyone and there is often a lot of music, drinking and partying well into the night of every day of holy week. Semana santa in Seville is particularly famous and is the largest in the country.
In Poland, Easter breakfast is usually seen as the most important meal of the weekend. The Easter breakfast would typically consist of eggs, ham, smoked sausage, rye bread, horseradish mixed with beetroot and an almond pastry. This breakfast is called Swieconka. Cake in the shape of a lamb, called baranek, is also traditional.
The tradition of painting eggs to represent new life allegedly began in Germany. Many Germans also prepare Easter trees in the weeks leading up to Easter weekend. Generally these are branches with coloured eggs hanging from them that people display in their homes and in churches. Traditionally, the eggs would have been blown and dyed with natural dyes such as tea and beetroot, but it’s now common to buy decorative eggs in many stores across Germany. As is the case across much of Europe, Good Friday and Easter Monday are public holidays in Germany.
Easter is less of a religious festival in Czech culture and instead traditionally represented the beginning of Spring and new life. Hand painted eggs (kraslice) are a traditional symbol of Czech Easter; they’re often beautifully decorated with geometric designs. The pomlazka tradition still happens in some places on Easter Monday. Dating back to pagan times, this is where boys would splash water or lightly tap the back of girl’s legs. This was to chase away spirits and illness, however nowadays it is slightly more controversial. Largescale Easter egg hunts happen in Prague and other major Czech cities.
Easter weekend can be a really good time to immerse yourself into the cultural traditions of the country you’re in. Why not have a google and see what Easter eggs hunts, processions, festivals and services are happening near you this weekend for you to get involved with!
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