The end of March through to the Middle of April each year in western Christian cultures signals the celebration of Easter. The exact dates of Easter shifts from year to year as it is falls 7 days after the full moon between 22 March and 25 April each year. The Easter holidays is a time to spend with family and friends and with most countries providing public holidays over the Easter weekend people tend to take advantage of the extra time off and do some travelling.
Each country and culture celebrates this time differently but the common theme is spending time with the ones you love and generally taking a break from the 9-5 grind of everyday living. From the holy streets of Rome to the bureaucratic lawn of the White House we will take a look at how the world celebrates Easter.
Norwegians retreat to the beautiful Scandinavian Mountains for their yearly Easter break to enjoy time with family in secluded mountain cabins while playing ‘’Yahtzee’’ a popular Norwegian board game played with dice. What makes the Norwegians’ celebration of Easter unique is that they indulge in what they call ‘’Easter-Crime’’. Unfortunately ‘’Easter-Crime” is not as exciting as it sounds, it entails reading mystery books or watching crime detective series on television. You do not have to be Sherlock Holmes to realise that the last parts of winter and the freezing temperatures of Norway has something to do with staying indoors and reading a good mystery novel.
United States of America
The Easter bunny reportedly was introduced to America by German immigrants who brought over their stories of an egg-laying hare. Traditionally people painted and decorated hardboiled chicken eggs and gave them to each other as a sign of friendship, of course today that tradition has changed. Chocolate eggs and candy have replaced chicken eggs with mothers and fathers hiding eggs in the house or garden for the children to find. Easter egg hunts and egg rolling dominates family activities during the Easter break with even the highest office in the land wanting in on the fun. The White House opens its gardens to children and parents to come and hunt for eggs and do some egg rolling, this comprises of rolling a hardboiled egg across the lawn. Unlike during the American thanksgiving holiday where the president pardons a turkey and in so doing spares his/her thighs from reaching the dinner plate all of these chocolate eggs are promptly devoured by little egg hunting children.
The Australians, never being ones to miss an opportunity to throw a party, celebrates Easter by organizing music festivals all across the county. The most celebrated of these festivals is called Easterfest hosted in Toowoomba just off the beautiful Gold Coast of Australia. Here people can come either to watch their favourite musical act while indulging in the local cuisine or to listen to a motivational speaker just before witnessing mesmerising moves by extreme sports stars. The Easter egg hunt is just as popular here as in the USA and people also attend special Easter church services to celebrate peace and forgiveness.
Truly one of the strangest traditions around the Easter period happens in Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia. Men in these countries throw water on women and spank or whip them with personally made whips. This of course is not done in a violent manner, it is merely symbolic, but it does raise some questions like why and again why? This tradition is held in order for women to keep their health and beauty in the coming year and also for a man to display his attraction to a woman. The woman then gives the man a decorated egg or even a small amount of money. This tradition gives new meaning to the saying that ‘’love is pain and pain is love”.
One would think that the home of the Roman Catholic Church and the country with arguably the most fascinating history of all will have rich traditions around the celebration of Easter, in doing so you would be right. Religious parades and celebrations are held in many towns and cities nationwide all of whom are different from the next. In Florence a decorated wagon is dragged through the streets by white oxen until it reaches Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence’s historic centre. The Archbishop of Florence, after mass, shoots a rocket into the cart, igniting the fireworks held in the cart, this process is known as the explosion of the cart or Scoppio del Carro. Rome, as can be expected, hosts the biggest celebrations during the Easter period culminating in the most popular mass in Italy held at Saint Peter’s Basilica, presided over by the Pope himself. Food in Italy plays a huge part in all celebrations irrespective of the occasion. Easter cuisine is dominated by lamb and artichoke, eggs are also used in various dishes to symbolise fertility and a new beginning. If you have ever needed a reason to visit Rome, then surely seeing the pope speak in front of the biggest cathedral in the world just before dining on some Italian lamb next to the historic Pantheon should be reason enough, but if it is not then include some Gelato at the Trevi fountain and you’ll be on the next flight to the eternal city guaranteed.
Want to join in on how the world celebrates Easter? Visit flightsite.co.za to book your holiday and experience new cultures.
Text Jimmy Victor