Easter is the most important Christian holiday celebrated around the world. With traditions stemming back centuries, it is also one of the oldest. In America, Easter is celebrated through family gatherings, Easter egg hunts, and delicious desserts to just name a few. In other countries, however, traditions include a variety of unique customs all celebrating one common theme; the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
People from all around the world visit the Holy Land during Easter weekend. At sunrise on Holy Saturday people gather around the Garden Tomb, the location believed to be the site of Jesus’ resurrection. Priests and monks in white robes recite the liturgy and burn incense which rises above the tomb. Another tradition is the Twelve Stations of the Cross where locals and travelers alike follow Jesus’ journey to Golgotha where He was crucified. A large crowd is generally in attendance and some people even carry their own cross to pay homage to the pain of Christ. One of the most significant traditions in Israel takes place at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher on Holy Saturday. All the lights in the city are turned off until the Holy Torch is lit. Everyone in attendance lights their own candle off the Holy Torch and the whole area is illuminated. This custom is often celebrated during Easter Vigil services here in the United States as well.
In Australia many traditions are celebrated during Easter weekend and the week anticipating it. One internationally popular theme regarding the Easter holiday is rabbits. In Australia, however, the rabbit is perceived as a pest that damages local crops. Instead, the Australians use the bilby, a marsupial that resembles a mouse-like rabbit. The bilby serves as an Easter mascot much like the rabbit does for Americans. One popular tradition is egg knocking. This game consists of two people holding eggs and tapping on them until one cracks. One of the most popular Australian Easter treats is the hot cross bun. This pastry is a spiced sweet bun filled with raisins and topped with a sugary glaze and white cross. The treat is typically eaten on good Friday. One of the most popular events during Easter time in Australia is the Sydney Royal Easter Show: a two-week event that brings almost a million visitors each year. The festival hosts events such as sheep shearing, wood chopping, and show animal competitions.
Easter in France is celebrated through a variety of different activities and events. Unlike most other countries around the world, the Easter bunny is not as prevalent. Rather than the Easter bunny bringing treats to kids, in France it is believed that the cloches volantes or “flying bells” delivers the treats. All the church bells in France are thought to sprout wings and fly to the Vatican where they are blessed by the Pope. The church bells then return on Easter Sunday with treats for children, especially chocolate eggs. One of the oldest French Easter traditions takes place in Bessieres on Easter Monday when a huge omelet is made with over 15,000 eggs and 40 cooks. Another popular tradition is an egg rolling competition where raw eggs are rolled down a slope. The eggs are used to symbolize the stone being rolled away from Jesus’ tomb.
The most popular Easter celebration in Italy is a 350-year-old tradition called the Scoppio Del Carro or “explosion of the cart.” An elaborate ancient cart is filled with fireworks in front of the Duomo, Florence’s gothic cathedral. The fireworks are then lit off to celebrate Easter and it is used to symbolize a sign of peace and a good year ahead. Another Italian tradition is called the celebration of the Pasquetta, or “little Easter.” This event takes place the day after Easter and involves many games and activities for families to participate in. One popular event is the Ruzzolone, a competition that involves rolling wheels of ruzzola cheese around the village.
Germany shares a lot of the same Easter traditions and symbols that we do in America, though most have adapted into different customs. One of the oldest German traditions is blowing eggs. Rather than dying the eggs, Germans poke a tiny hole and blow the contents of the egg out. After being left out to dry they are carefully painted by children and adults. Once dried these eggs are then hung up on trees outside or on branches brought into homes. Along with egg painting, Easter fires are another German tradition. It is believed to be a tradition of fertility where the ashes from the fire scatter over the fields and fertilize the land.
Post written by Mike Freiberg