Apart from politics and economy, Europeans share a lot of culture, traditions and common holidays. Easter is one of them. Even if you are not religious at all you will enjoy some free days and the traditions of your home country. But do you know what your European neighbors are doing at this time of the year? Let’ s take a look!
In My country, Germany, on Good Friday, called Karfreitag in German, children are up very early in the morning and going around in cities and towns with wooden instruments called ‘Ratsche’ making noise and singing to wake people up and remind them it is a special day. It is an old tradition as the church bells will be silent till Easter Sunday so the kids did their job and woke the people up.
Later in the day, there are processions, meeting family and friends and coloring Easter eggs which will be placed on Easter Sunday somewhere in the gardens and parks together with sweets so kids can hunt them there. We have special food on Easter of course and decorating trees and bushes with blown out and painted eggs is a tradition too.
Sweden (in some parts)
Meeting family and friends and opening the summer house season is a tradition in Sweden on Easter. But in some parts, there is a very special tradition on top: Easter witches!
Trick-or-treating at Easter? Yes, this is when Swedish Easter witches, ‘påskkärringar’, come around asking for candy.
The Semana santa ( Holy Week) is celebrated in whole of Spain with a lot of processions at both day and night where people carry around statues and are covered in special costumes, inspired by the ancient pilgrims who humbled themselves by covering their faces. There is a similar tradition on Easter in some parts of Italy by the way. It is a very special atmosphere and worth visiting and joining it even if you are not religious.
In Greece, Easter is the most important religious festival and it is lived with a lot of participation by the faithful. Alongside the religious rituals, however, “pagan” traditions are also held, handed down for centuries. The date of Orthodox Easter does not always match that of the Christian Easter. The entire Holy Week is celebrated with solemnity and devotion and before reaching the Orthodox Easter, people spend days of fasting and celebrate rites and traditions. A purely Greek tradition of Easter is to color and decorate eggs with red. The choice of color refers to an ancient legend that Mary Magdalene, after being at the Tomb of Jesus and having found it empty, she went where the disciples had gathered and told them the exciting news. Peter, however, incredulous said, “I will believe what you say if the eggs you have in the basket will become red.” And suddenly the eggs turned red. Red represents the color of the blood of Christ, the feast and a way to ward off evil. At Easter, families, friends and neighbors meet out to eat with the lamb cooked on skewers, talking, singing and dancing. Anyone can approach and take his portion, accompanied by a glass of wine and an exchange of greetings.
Apart from coloring eggs, eating special blessed food and meeting with family and friends, processions and decorating wonderful painted and blown out eggs on bushes and trees, there is a very special tradition in Poland called Wet Monday.
On Easter Monday the real fun begins – if you’re a girl you better read these words carefully! This is a day when young boys set up small okay…not small, huge groups and they hunt for girls to use their water guns against them. That’s right – they literally do everything they can to make them all wet. Don’t be surprised when you see a small boy running around with the big bucket of water ready to pour it out on a random girl he sees. The most dangerous places during that day? churches, parks, small streets, squares…well to be honest, you can’t feel 100% safe anywhere! What is a tourist visitor’s tip for you? Don’t leave home alone unless you carry a huge water gun with yourself to fight back!
I have not been able to list up all European Easter traditions, so if you know some more, especially the really unique ones: Don’t hesitate to add them in your comments or write an own article for Europa United.
I will be pleased to learn more.