The Best Easter Traditions Around the World
What is Easter Holiday?
Millions of people around the world celebrate Easter, but many others may not be as familiar with the story. Easter commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ on the third day after His crucifixion.
Christian Easter celebrations
Since so many different cultures and people celebrate Easter, there are thousands of traditions, ranging from church-wide services and practices like Lent in the Catholic Church, to small family traditions like special desserts. There are many Easter traditions, both religious and social.
How to Find a Church Service for Easter
Almost every Christian church will be holding an Easter service at some point, probably in the morning. If you don’t want to walk into a random service, you can look online and find websites for churches you prefer to go to, or you can check social media pages of churches you’d like to visit. Most will be making their Easter service as accessible as possible to others. If you are unable to attend a service in person due to distance, sickness, or another reason, there are several meetings that are recorded, you can either watch live or a recorded version of a past service online.
Lent is a practice in the Catholic Church that begins on Ash Wednesday, 40 days before Easter weekend, and ends at sundown the night of Holy Thursday, right before Good Friday. As a period of preparation for Easter and in memory of Jesus fasting for 40 days and 40 nights, it is a time of fasting, giving alms, studying the Bible, and prayer. Baptized Catholics participating in Lent abstain from eating meat on Fridays, and also think and pray about other luxuries to give up during the 40-day period.
Ethiopia has a similar practice called Fasika (the Amharic word for Easter). It is the 55-day period before Easter, and Christians who practice it give up meat and animal products for the whole 55 days in preparation for Fasika. After the Sunday service on Fasika, a rich celebration and dinner follows.
Many people will participate in or go see reenactments of the crucifixion and resurrection or other events from the Bible and Christ’s life to remember Him.
Lots of cities will have huge parades and processions to celebrate Easter. The most notable are the procession the Pope leads in Vatican City and the walk in Jerusalem, where people can follow the same path Jesus took.
Most churches will have a special service on Easter Sunday devoted to the resurrection and the Easter story. Some Christians attend church every Sunday, while others go on special occasions, including Easter, so it is usually a larger service than normal.
Activities to do after Easter Service
Lots of families follow the Easter Bunny tradition and will give an Easter basket filled with chocolate, candy, and toys to each child either in the morning or right after the service. Along with the Easter Bunny, many families do Easter egg decorating and an Easter egg hunt. Hard-boiled eggs are painted with food dye, paint, crayons, or anything else used to color them. Once dry, they can be eaten or hidden for the kids to look for in an Easter egg hunt. Lots of people also use plastic eggshells filled with candy, money, or toys as well to hide for the kids around the house or outside for the Easter egg hunt.
Another egg tradition is making cascarones, a Mexican tradition for carnival adopted by many Mexican and American families. You start by taking raw eggs and tapping a hole in the top to empty out the egg whites and yolks and rinsing out the shells. Once the shells are dry, you carefully paint them with dye or paint. After they have dried again, you fill the shells with confetti, then seal them by gluing a small piece of tissue paper over the hole.
You can then crack the cascarones over the heads of friends and family. Another fun activity to do with kids is to make resurrection rolls. All you need is dough (homemade or store-bought), marshmallows, cinnamon sugar, and butter. Coat the marshmallows in butter and roll them in the cinnamon sugar. Then, wrap the marshmallows in the dough, and bake them. The marshmallow will melt and absorb into the dough, leaving an empty hole. When they come out of the oven, there will be an empty space where the marshmallow was, like the empty tomb where Jesus’ body was on the third day of His death.
Social and Family Easter Traditions
The tradition of Easter eggs is a huge one. Many families will paint hard-boiled eggs with dye or paint and eat the colored eggs later. Colorful plastic eggshells are filled with candy or toys and hidden outside or around the house for the kids to look for. Lots of people in Mexico and the United States have adopted Mexican cascarones, a Carnival tradition, for Easter. Cascarones can be store-bought but lots of people prefer to make their own at home. To make them, you cut a small hole at the tip of the egg to drain out the whites and yolk. Once the shell is empty, you gently paint it with food dye and fill it with confetti, glitter, or anything else small. You can then glue a small piece of tissue paper over the hole to seal the egg. Now you can crack your cascarones on friends and family!
Another common Easter treat is chocolate bunnies. In the United States, chocolate bunnies and chicks are most common for Easter, but some countries go for other animals. Australia has replaced the Easter Bunny with the Easter Bilby, a similar-looking but less invasive species. Rabbits are invasive to Australia and have become a problem, so they have rebranded the Easter Bunny and Chocolate bunnies with the endangered rabbit-eared bandicoots.
There are tons of foods associated with Easter, and many more family traditions. The most obvious Easter food is eggs. Representing spring and new life, eggs are pretty universal when it comes to Easter. Another popular food eaten in America on Easter is ham. This is mostly just due to ham curing over the winter and being ready to eat by Easter in the spring, but the tradition has stuck.
A small town in Southern France, Haux, has taken up the tradition of cooking a massive omelet every Easter. Thousands of eggs are cracked and cooked into an omelet that serves over a thousand people. New Zealand and Australia typically bake hot cross buns for Easter. The heavy comfort food matches as Easter lines up with their fall instead of spring.
Another popular treat to make on Easter is resurrection rolls. Homemade or storebought dough is wrapped around a marshmallow coated in butter and cinnamon sugar and then baked. When bitten into, the marshmallow is gone and there is a hole left in the pastry. Making these is a popular object lesson to teach about the resurrection and symbolize the empty tomb.
Many European Countries will light celebratory Easter fires to chase the darkness of winter away and welcome in the new spring. This is typically the first big gathering after winter and is a social event as well as symbolic.
To go along with fires, many cultures set off fireworks to celebrate Easter and the coming spring. Florence, Italy has the Scoppio del Carro (Explosion of the Cart), a 350-year-old tradition of loading a cart with fireworks, leading it through the streets to the Duomo, where the Archbishop of Florence lights it during Easter mass. Another tradition is the Mexican Judas burning, where a paper mache doll representing Judas Iscariot is stuffed with fireworks and blown up.
The island of Bermuda has a popular tradition of kite flying on Easter weekend, the Good Friday KiteFest. The kites are usually strong colors and geometric shapes, and often use a cross in part of the structure.
Antigua has an Easter tradition of decorating the city with brightly colored carpets to prepare for the Good Friday procession. The designs are made wth flowers, fruits and vegetables, and colored sand and sawdust. The carpets usually tell a story, either religious, historical, or mythical.
Many cultures have traditions of dressing up to celebrate Easter. Young children in Finland dress up as Easter witches with bright clothing, painted cheeks and freckles, and decorated twigs. They go door to door on either Holy Saturday or Easter Sunday, reciting blessings to drive away evil spirits in return for a chocolate egg. Verges, Spain, has a tradition of the dansa de la mort (death dance), where participants dress up as skeletons and reenact scenes from the Passion. The performance starts at midnight and goes into the early morning and ends with the skeletons carrying boxes of ashes.
People also dress up in Prizzi, Sicily, where they participate in the Abballu de Daivuli. People dress up in red robes and zinc masks as devils until the afternoon, when Christ and the Virgin Mary send angels to dispel the demons.
On the Greek island of Corfu, locals participate in the traditional pot throwing on Holy Saturday. On the morning of Holy Saturday, people on Corfu will throw pottery filled with water from their balconies onto the street below. Poland has a tradition called Śmigus-dyngus (Wet Monday) on Easter Monday. People gather with water guns, buckets, balloons, and anything else they can use to soak each other. Hungary has a less intense tradition called sprinkling, where boys will sprinkle perfumed water on girls on Easter Monday.
Traditional Easter songs and praise
A key component of church services is the music, and an Easter-centric service is no different. Most Easter songs are focused on the resurrection and the power of Christ and His grace and love. Some popular easter hymns are:
- Easter “Hallelujah”
- This Little Light of Mine
- Amazing Grace
- He is Risen
- How Great Thou Art
- God so Loved the World
- In Christ alone
- In the Garden
- Oh Happy Day
- Christ is Risen! Hallelujah!
Most people recognize the Easter Holiday by reading the story of the resurrection in the Bible. There are many great scriptures to reference and read to learn more about Easter. The Easter story can be found in the Bible in all 4 of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). Matthew chapters 26 through 28, Mark chapters 14 through 16, Luke chapters 22 through 24, and John chapters 18 through 21. Some other Bible passages that are often studied for Easter include:
- Luke 24:2-3
- John 11:25-26
- Acts 3:15
- Acts 4:33
- Romans 8:34
- Romans 6:8-11
- Colossians 1:13-14
- Ephesians 2:4-7
- 1 Peter 1:3
What are traditional Easter and Good Friday foods?
There are tons of traditional Easter foods from all around the world! So many cultures celebrate the holiday and they all bring their backgrounds into the meals they prepare to celebrate. In America, lots of families traditionally eat a ham dinner. This has been tradition mostly because ham would cure over the winter and be ready to eat around springtime, just in time for Easter. Ham is more easily available at all times now, but the tradition has stuck. A popular Easter dessert is carrot cake, calling to mind the Easter Bunny and spring foods.
In Ukraine, Easter dinner is often made up of foods given up during Lent. Butter and cheese are staples at the Easter dinner table. Germany has a tradition of Good Friday fish cakes. Usually, salmon and sauerkraut paired with salsa. The Czech Republic traditionally serves stuffing for Easter. Full of smoked meat, eggs, and herbs, all baked together into a delicious stuffing ready for Easter dinner! European countries often have lamb for dinner on Easter to remember Jesus as the perfect Lamb of God. Lots of cultures bake Easter bread.
Often for Easter, people will lace dyed Easter eggs into the braid itself! Greece and Italy often serve a side of asparagus with Easter dinner, usually ham or lamb. Another common side for many places around the world is deviled eggs. England, Australia, and New Zealand often have hot, sticky hot cross buns as an Easter treat! Polish people traditionally make babka, a chocolatey bread that they take in their swięcone basket, a food basket taken to church on Easter Saturday to be blessed.
Many Mexican families make capirotada, a bread pudding made with raisins, bananas, and cinnamon milk. Capirotada is made during Lent and Holy Week leading up to Easter Day. Many people in Italy also make an Easter pie, a savory meat pie. Greek families often make koulourakia, a sweet butter cookie Lots of West African countries make jollof for Easter, a savory rice dish made with vegetable and tomato paste sauce.
Where did the Easter Bunny and eggs come from?
The Easter bunny figure first originated in 17th-century Germany, and was brought to America in the 1700s by German immigrants. In early folklore, the Easter Hare acted as a sort of judge, similar to Christmas’s Santa Claus, and sorted the good kids from the bad. Immigrants brought the tradition to the United States and the idea of the Easter Bunny spread from there. Bunnies and eggs are fairly universal symbols of fertility, new life, and spring, which makes them perfect for the Christian holiday of new life and rebirth. People have been giving eggs, both real and chocolate, out as Easter gifts for centuries, and it is a tradition that doesn’t seem to be dying out anytime soon.
How to Make Your Own Chocolate Bunny at Home
Making your own chocolate bunny isn’t as hard as it seems. You can buy a mold of bunnies, eggs, chicks, or any other Easter symbols from any craft store or online. You can then make homemade chocolate or just melt chocolate, pour it in the mold, and freeze so it sets. If you’re making hollow chocolate bunnies, you can “glue” the halves together by lining the edges with more melted chocolate and pressing them together while it sets.
Using Storebought Chocolate
You can buy melting chocolate from most grocery stores. The best way to melt chocolate smoothly is by using a double boiler. A double boiler is a heat-proof bowl (usually glass or metal) placed over a pot of simmering water. The hot water heats up the glass or metal bowl, which evenly melts the chocolate without burning it.
You can melt the chocolate in the microwave—just be sure to use a microwave-safe bowl and use short blasts and stir in between so you don’t burn the chocolate. You can also make homemade chocolate using cocoa beans, cocoa butter, sugar, and milk or cream. Once made, you can melt it the same way.
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