Happy Easter! God påske! Buona Pasqua! Wesołych Świąt Wielkanocnych! Glad Påsk! Христос воскрес (Xristos voskres)
Easter is an important time of the year for many, whether you are religious or not. It is all about spending time with your family and enjoying your free time whether it is going away for holidays or spending time cosy on a sofa binging on Netflix and trying to resist opening up that 2nd (ok 5th) chocolate egg. That is the case for many people living in other countries but there is always something that makes their experience different than yours.
Joining in with local traditions is also a fun way to connect with the culture of your new home, which you can add to your family traditions.
Here are some ways people celebrate Easter in 6 countries around the world. Maybe it will be fun to try some of them out yourself?
Norway - Påske
Norway is one of the countries that have the longest Easter holiday. Shops and work places are closed on Maundy Thursday (skjærtorsdag) and Good Friday (langfredag) as well as on Monday following Easter Sunday (påskedag). Schools close for an entire week leading up to Easter.
Many Norwegians follow the traditional traditions of Easter such as attending Mass, Easter eggs, Easter bunny and Easter yellow chicks. However, throughout the last couple of years, many new traditions emerged within the Norwegian society. Many people travel up to the mountains to relax in cabins and ski while eating oranges and Kvikk Lunsj (chocolate bar comprising of the crunchy wafer covered with milk chocolate).
If you are a fan of criminology Norway is a place to be during Easter due to Påskekrim. This tradition revolves around crime, as surreal as this sounds! Reading crime stories and books is something that is done a lot during Easter. You even find crime stories on milk cartons as well. Most of the TV and radio stations put out a crime show for people to enjoy during Easter.
When it comes to food, people in Norway have a large family meal during Easter. Some of the food that you can find on their tables would include boiled potatoes and vegetables with lamb meat. Also, you can’t forget about the Easter beer and cookies at the end!
Italy - Pasqua
For many Italians, Easter is a very important holiday, only coming second to Christmas. However, in Italy, you won’t be seeing any Easter bunnies or egg hunts as much. It is a place to visit if you are Christian as most of the celebration centre around religion. People celebrate Easter in Italy by attending masses and processions due to its high number of Christian living in Italy. One of those masses happens on Good Friday, where the Pope celebrates Stations of the Cross (Via Crucis) near the Colosseum. Throughout the whole celebration process, a big cross surrounded by torches is displayed. The Stations of the Cross are explained in multiple languages. The whole event finishes with a blessing from the Pope.
Masses at Easter are held in every church in Italy but the biggest mass and most popular one is at Saint Peter’s Basilica where the Pope is also present. To attend this mass, tickets must be ordered 2-6 months in advance - they are however free. So, if you are ever interested, remember to plan ahead!
During parades that are held during Easter, people are often dressed in traditional ancient costumes. One of the biggest parades happens in Enna, in Sicily with more than 2,000 friars who are dressed up. Another important procession happens in Trapani, in Sicily which on Good Friday (Misteri di Trapani) lasts 24 hours. The churches are decorated by olive branches and palm fronds.
On Easter Monday (La Pasquetta) you can experience dances, free concerts or games which include eggs or rolling wheels of cheese around college walls. During those celebrations, people in Italy often eat, goat, artichokes and special pieces of bread that vary from region to region.
Poland - Wielkanoc
Poland has a high number of Catholics living there which means that Easter is a very important holiday. Many people visit church every day during Easter and attend different masses that are dedicated to what was happening during the story of Jesus.
On Holy Saturday many Poles prepare beautifully decorated basket full of food such as eggs, bread, hams, cheese and salt. The tradition is to go to church to get you food blessed by the priest which can be consumed later. Often it is kids that bring the baskets to the altar and take them when the blessing is finished.
Easter Sunday is an important day for many Polish children as in many places it is a time for presents from the Easter bunny. In certain parts of Poland, there is a tradition where an Easter Bunny comes and hides children presents in the gardens and bushes that children have to find.
Śmigus-dyngus is the closing of the Easter period. If you are in Poland during this period be prepared to get wet as it is Polish tradition to try and catch people unaware and get them wet. This often turns to water fights among family and friends which is fine as the weather in Poland during this time of the year is usually very pleasant and warm.
What you will find on an Easter table depends on what part of the country you are at. Some of the main foods are biała kiełbasa which is a white sausage, makowiec which is a poppy seed roll spun like a strudel. Easter babka is also a very popular food that can be found. It is no-knead yeast cake which is not in usual cake shape as it baked in a Bundt pan. It can be laced with rum syrup and drizzled with icing, but it does not have any fillings.
Sweden - Påsk
When it comes to Sweden, do not expect to see the same religious side to Easter as you would see in Italy or Poland. Norway is not a very Christian country so the traditions there are something you might not have heard about before.
One of the main differences is Maundy Thursday (Skärtorsdag). According to Swedish folklore, this is the time of the year that witches will head to a place called blåkulla to celebrate with the devil. Due to this, do not be surprised to see children walking around dressed up as påskkärringar (easter witches). This tradition is very similar to Halloween as they walk around and collect candy.
One of the traditions that are similar to other countries that you will encounter in Sweden is the decorating of the påskägg (Easter egg). Some Swedish people hide those eggs and create maps for kids to find those eggs - a little treasure hunt!
During Easter, you will find pickled herring, cured salmon and Jansson’s Temptation (potato, onion and pickled anchovies baked in cream) on Swedish people tables.
Russia - Пасха (Paskha)
Easter in Russia is not celebrated during the same time that Catholics celebrate theirs. Orthodox Easter Day is celebrated based on the Julian calendar, so it often is different from the date that it falls on the Gregorian Calendar. This year (2019) it's on the 28th of April, next year (2020) it's on the 19th of April.
During this time of year, people in Russia have special greetings when they greet someone. To say hello, they say “Khristos voskres” and the reply to this is “Voistinu voskres”. If you were to translate this, it would mean that “Christ has risen” and “Truly resurrected”. Also don’t be surprised if people there, hug and kiss you as it is a tradition during this time of the year for people to hug and kiss three times to represent a belief, hope and love.
Russia like other counties also holds a significance to eggs. However, it is not the main custom to purchase chocolate eggs. The main tradition in this country is to decorate real eggs. To achieve their beautiful patterns and colours, they boil the eggs with a white onion peal around it which creates a maroon colour with different patterns on it. If you want to try it at home, check out this blog post with step-by-step instructions.
When it comes to food the Russians eat food such as Kulich which is a Russian Easter break, Paskha which is a meal made out of cottage cheese, raisins and nuts and they also eat eggs. The tradition of eats eggs can be traced back to pre-Christian times when eggs had a different symbolism to them. They were considered to be symbols of fertility and protections, but now red coloured eggs symbolise the blood of Christ in the Russian culture.
Scotland - Easter
While Easter might have gradually reduced it’s religious focus over the years, it is still a long bank holiday weekend where many people have Good Friday and Easter Monday off.
A more unusual tradition especially in rural parts of Scotland is rolling painted hard boiled eggs down a hill. Families would paint their own hard boiled chicken or duck egg then walk to the nearest hill and roll them down. The egg that gets to the bottom first wins, although no prizes are involved, then you eat them. This is to represent the stone being rolled away from the tomb in the Easter story.
In schools and nurseries before the Easter holidays kids may make an Easter Bonnet and have a little competition for the best one. This is a handmade sun hat, typically made of straw and then you decorate them with bright ribbons, flowers and other things that indicate spring is coming.
Typical Easter food consists of hot cross buns. I was surprised when my international friends had never heard or eaten these really tasty sweet bread rolls. They fill the shops at this time of year and are normally made with sultanas, citrus peel and spices and have a cross shape on the top. They are served best cut in half, lightly toasted then buttered. So good! Although if you hate the thought of dried fruit in bread, then you can get a range of flavours these days from salted caramel or chocolate.
Easter Sunday Lunch would generally be a roast lamb dinner with roast potatoes and fresh veg. Then the rest of the day would be spent munching on chocolate in various bunny, lamb or egg shapes. My favourites are Cadbury’s mini eggs ;)