The Institute presents: Easter traditions
Carrying on our tradition of presenting traditions here is a small selection of Western European traditions for Easter! We hope you have an amazing Easter with family and wish you the best!
Adrian Waters: Rome, Italy
For the majority of Italians Easter celebrations start on Good Friday, but in Sicily and in Sardinia the week before Easter Sunday (known as Holy Week) is particularly important because of their historic links with Spain. In Sardinia, for instance, there is a custom known as Sa Chida Santa which is borrowed from Catalan traditions and involves different rituals and processions for each day of the week. The Pope marks the Thursday of the Holy Week (the night of the Last Supper) by washing the feet of others just like Jesus did with his disciples. In recent years Pope Francis has washed the feet of prison inmates, young offenders, refugees and former mafiosi. Unlike other countries, Good Friday is not a public holiday in Italy as it’s a day of mourning to mark Jesus’s death. For this reason, parishes do not have masses, but celebrate the Via Crucis (the Latin term for the Way of Grief) or hold a solemn liturgy. In Rome, the Pope will say a mass on Friday afternoon before leading the Via Crucis procession from the Colosseum to the Palatine Hill, accompanied by a huge cross covered in burning torches. Elsewhere in the country, the Via Crucis is celebrated on Friday and Saturday with processions and parades. The participants wear costumes, carry torches, crosses or statues of saints or flagellate themselves as penance. In some towns, the locals act out important events from the Easter story, including the trial and death of Jesus.
As in many countries, Italians consume chocolate eggs during the Easter festivities, which often come with a gift inside that is meant for children. They also enjoy eating the Colomba, a traditional Easter cake often made with candied peel and almonds in the shape of a dove from which it derives its name. On Easter Sunday Italians gather with their parents and relatives to eat lamb together and on Easter Monday they usually spend time with friends having a barbecue or going on a trip to the countryside.
Italian Colomba cake (Source: https://cucina.fidelityhouse.eu/lievitati/pasqua-si-avvicina-ecco-a-voi-la-ricetta-per-preparare-la-colomba-25624.html )
Evie Knapman: York, United Kingdom
In the UK, Easter is celebrated as one of the main Christian festivals in the calendar, but for many people Easter celebrations revolve around more than going to Church. With bank holidays on Good Friday and Easter Monday, people often use Easter as a time to catch up with friends and family, and celebrate one of the year’s first sunny weekends if we’re lucky! Children await Easter Sunday with great excitement, as one of the central Easter traditions is giving chocolate eggs as a symbol of spring and new life. Traditionally, these were painted hen’s eggs, but nowadays you’re more likely to see Snickers or Mars eggs on the table when you wake up! One of the most enjoyable Easter traditions is the Easter egg hunt, where mini chocolate eggs are hidden and children have to find them, and these can be found in homes, or public places such as National Trust properties. Sometimes, Easter egg hunts consist of complex clues which must be worked out to find the prize. Alongside Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny (which originated from 17th century Germany) is one of British children’s favourite people to receive a visit from.
Philippe Lefevre: Paris, France
Pâques, as Easter is known in France, is quite important celebration, deriving like other traditions from passover. Unlike many countries, you won’t find many chocolate bunnies (although they’re certainly there!) but more bells! In France, since Church bells don’t run from Friday to Sunday, we use chocolate bells to celebrate in sweety goodness. The flying bells are probably the most unique part of it, and came about as Church bells in France “fly” to Rome to see the Pope and return home on Sunday! Must cost a lot of air miles for that.
Also, like other places, there’s a good amount of hunting for chocolate eggs as in most countries, so you won’t feel too isolated! Alongside this, pastry chefs also get a good task, making Elephant Ears! Crunch cinnamon palmiers that are cooked much like a croissant. Of course the ceremony on Sunday is always a holy day but following that like most countries is a traditional family meal. Lamp is the main meat here and the vegetables often consist of classic spring vegetables and white beans!
Easter Monday is usually accompanied by omlette and pastries, with the French Town of Bessieres celebrating by cooking an omelette for 15’000 people! This dates back to a tradition where Napoleon the first asked for an omelette for all his troops stationed there. It takes over 40 cooks to cook the whole thing!
Jules Bertemes: Luxembourg
Many western countries are on the verge of abandoning old traditions, especially when connected closely to catholic beliefs. However, in a country with a long-lasting history linked to the catholic church, the Easter holiday still remains as one of those times in the year, where families gather and nurture the spirit of unity and thankfulness.
While the number of church goers continues its downward path, numerous families still actively look forward to the Saturday night church service, lasting until midnight, praying to the lights of candles, looking for the blessing from God.
The part of the celebrations, most kids look forward to however, is the Easter Egg hunt. With an adventurous spirit, the youngest amongst the family seek to find the treasures, consisting mostly of colourfully painted eggs, hidden by their parents.
Luxembourg has one very specific Easter tradition, dating back to the 19th century. On Easter Monday, many Luxembourgish people gather in the capital or alternatively in a small village in the West of the country. The so-called “’Eimaischen” festivities are destined for craftsmen from across the country to gather and the main point of interest consists of small cuckoo-shaped figurines. The tradition originated from Christian tales and is linked to the apostles of Jesus Christ.
Pablo Garfias: Barcelona, Spain
Easter in Spain is complicated. There are as many different traditions and customs as there are provinces, but for the sake of brevity I will be speaking of two: the most notorious of all Easter celebrations in Spain - the processions in the southern city of Sevilla, and the one I experienced in my childhood in Barcelona, that of the ‘mona’.
The Sevillian processions are characteristic because of their immensity. Groups of people carry ‘floats’ which tend to be religious pieces of art depicting different scenes of the crucifixion of Christ - and are followed by penitents. Each of about 50 of the different brotherhoods in the city carries their own floats from their parish and around a set route until returning back to their respective churches. The most notable of the brotherhoods participating in the processions is that which carries the city’s most beloved virgin, a name that might sound familiar: ‘La Macarena’. Following the floats, the penitents wear coned hats that resemble those of the American ‘ku klux klan’ though not for the same reasons - it is so none is distinguishable from each other and so may only be recognised by god.
The ‘mona’ tradition consists of godfathers giving their godchildren a cake. To those who speak Moroccan, they may recognise the word as meaning ‘gift’. The cake used to look like a massive donut, the middle being full of hard-boiled eggs. The amount of eggs was always the age of the godchild. Over time, however, the hard-boiled eggs were gradually replaced with chocolate eggs, and jam was added between layers on the cake. Needless to say, bakers were getting increasingly creative. If one visits different bakeries throughout Barcelona in Easter, they will see elaborate chocolate decorations, ranging from a little chocolate house with chocolate eggs to themed as the city’s soccer team, the FC Barcelona. It’s a celebration that forces all of the family to the table - after all, who wouldn’t with such an abundance of cake?