Are you excited for the weekend? It is Easter again. But why only exercise the same traditions as every year? Why not celebrate French Easter this year. Or do some Semana Santa? Let’s get inspired by the many traditions around Europe and make this year’s celebration special.
In Sweden, Easter is the first occasion to head to summer cottage, or heading North to do the last skiing of the season. Once there, gathering as many family members as possible to the lunch feast of pickled herring, cured salmon, Jansson’s Temptation and spiced Schnapps together with påskris, willow or birch twigs with feathers, decorating the table.
Unlike other countries, in Sweden Easter has turned to be a secular holiday, despite the fact that churches are frequented more often than on usual Sundays. Two traditions left from former times are the bonfires and the witches walking around. Little kids dress up at Easter as witches and give away paintings and drawings in return for sweets, especially chocolate eggs. This tradition has his roots in the ancient believes of witches flying to Blåkulla, the Blue Mountains, to meet the devil. To scare the witches off, the village people used to light big bonfires, which are still lit today.
Traveling south, brings to one of the most important destinations for Finns, Estonia. The munadepühad, is still a great church holiday in Estonia. Traditionally children colour eggs and change them with their friends. A prominent game, especially among boys, is ‘egg knocking’; two opponents knock hard-boiled eggs against each other and whose egg is cracking first loses.
After that much entertainment, Pasha is served. It is the most popular dish for easter and made of drained cottage cheese served with raisins, nuts and candied peel or compôte berries.
The most famous easter tradition in Germany is the easter bunny hiding the eggs in houses and gardens. It was first mentioned in the 17th century until it fully established in the 19th century. Even though all the children know, that hens produce the eggs, telling them they would as well lay coloured eggs just was not possible. Therefore, the easter bunny, faster and more clever, has been associated with the egg. As wild rabbits have been coming closer to the villages to find food sources, parents had an accuse for all the eggs they had hidden in the garden for the kids for the kids to hunt for. Until today, bunnies, especially those made of chocolate, are the quintessence of German Easter.
The tradition of burning Easter Wheels is deeply rooted in some regions of Germany. The villages fill wooden wheels with hay to be pushed down the hill into the village of Lügde. Even though no one knows how far it dates back, it is the symbol for spring, the sun winning over the cold and dark winter.
Semana Santa, as the holy week is called in Spain, is strongly celebrated in the South. During the week the different brotherhoods (there are more than 55 of them) parade the streets with their floats depicting scenes of Christs’s crucifixion and other scenes from the bible. The floats can be several meter in heights and width and weigh over 3,000 kg. The people, men of the brotherhoods, carrying the paso are called costaleros. Depending on the size of the float 40 or more carriers are needed for the processions. Some brotherhoods even have ‘spare’ costaleros to give each other a rest while parading the streets. Since 1973 mainly costaleros of the hermandades carry the pasos from the churches around town to their respective cathedrals. On Good Friday the pasos leave the churches at midnight to be carried during the night until they reach their cathedral.
Following the pasos are the Nazarenos; the members of the different brotherhoods wear a robe and a cloak during the processions, which color represent the hermandad.
Even though this celebration takes immensely efforts of the participants, the grace and seriousness of this religious holiday are deeply imbedded into their actions.
Before Easter Sunday the church bells in France remain silent to mourn. To make this silent period more attractive to children and to explain the chocolate in the gardens on Easter Sunday, it is claimed that the church bells get wings and fly to the Pope to be blessed. In Rome the bells collect chocolate for the children, so when they fly back to their home churches, all the chocolate bunnies, eggs and bells will be scattered in the French cities for the children to find in the morning. The first ring of the bell is therefore not only a Christian symbol for Christ’s resurrection but also for the bells being back from Rome.
But apart from the chocolate that will fill the table, French food during Easter is very traditional. On Good Friday, there will be no meat served, only fish, vegetables and bread. On Le Jour De Pâques (Easter Sunday) roast lamb together with cake called La Gâche de Pâques will be served. When you spend your Easter Sunday in Bessières, a town in the South of France, you can see a giant omelette being cooked from 10,000 eggs. Bon appétit!