Easter is upon us, but what does that mean? Is there more to it than a festival of chocolate eggs? For some it is cause to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, for others a long relaxing weekend, the start of spring, the decline towards winter or just a great excuse to eat eggs. Here are some ways that Easter is celebrated around the world.
In the Vatican, Pope Francis led the Easter mass from the central balcony of St Peter’s Basilica. In addition to the regular sentiments on the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Pope concluded with a prayer for the regions experiencing conflict, Ukraine, Iran, Nigeria, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Israel, Syria and Venezuela.
St Peter’s square was decorated with flowers and plants donated by the Netherlands including tulips, daffodils and birch trees. The use of Dutch plants is an Easter tradition in itself. It dates back to 1985 when Pope John Paul II visited the nation. It was a visit that caused much debate as many Dutch citizens protested against the church’s stance on premarital sex and homosexual relationships. But the national flower bureau or Bloemenbureau, wanted to extend a warm welcome to the then Pope and so they set up floral decorations all over the country. Since then, the Netherlands have been responsible for decorating St Peter’s square every Easter.
In the Spanish regions of Castile and León, to the unenlightened, Easter may seem like some sort of slip back to a pre-civil war America. Spanish ‘brotherhoods’ hold a procession through the streets. Some ride on horseback wearing long robes of varying colours with pointed hoods that cover everything but the eyes. They carry large religious statues that depict different scenes from the gospels and are accompanied by drums. This rite has been around in a similar form since the Middle Ages.
In Bulgaria, the Easter festival is all about the eggs. But they are not filled with chocolate, or even made to be eaten. Instead, eggs are dyed red and taken to the church to be blessed. One egg is tapped against the wall of the church and then eggs are tapped against each other, carrying the blessing along with them. The last egg to crack is said to bring good luck and health.
Mexico also has a focus on eggs. These are dyed a variety of bright colours and filled with confetti. There are also passion plays, vigils and lively processions over the weekend.
Poland and Hungary follow a sort of baptismal ritual at Easter. In Hungary, this is done through a small “sprinkle” of perfumed water in exchange for eggs and other sweets. By the end of the day, both men and women end up smelling like a pharmacy, from all the perfumes combined. In Poland it is known as “wet Easter Monday” and boys take to the streets with buckets of water and squirt guns in order to drench girls. Some also carry willow branches for “switching.” All of this is meant for good fortune and a girl who is thoroughly soaked is said to marry within a year.
On the Greek island of Chios, two rival parishes light up the night before Orthodox Easter by firing rockets at each other. the rockets are made by hand and the winning parish is the one with most hits on the other church.
In Sydney, visiting royals William and Kate wore long coats to keep out the autumn cold as they attended a Sunday church service. The couple signed the First Fleet Bible, which has been in Australia since 1788, and bears the signature of many other members of the royal family. After, prince George met some fluffy animal friends including a koala and a bibly (a marsupial resembling a rabbit).
In New York, Easter is celebrated with a parade along 5th avenue. The tradition began in the 1880, when New Yorkers would take a Sunday stroll in their festival finery. But in recent years, it appear more like a costume parade. There are many people with floppy bunny ears hanging over their bonnets, dogs stroll with their owners in costumes they wore at Halloween or St Patrick’s day. Some of the faithful lined up to enter the churches along the avenue feel that this outpouring of creativity is against the traditional meaning of Easter, but most are happy to be out and enjoying the weather.
Easter is celebrated in a number of different ways world wide. There are not just chocolate eggs, pets, water fights, fireworks, but many other festivals too.
By Sara Watson