By Ana Paula Pinheiro, Writer, British Council

31 Mar 2021 - 14:01

Have a Happy Easter

The world around us is full of traditions and the Easter season is no exception. We selected 10 countries and their respective traditions. We only have space to highlight one or two traditions in each country, but there are often many more. So come and travel with us and learn a little more about the culture of these countries.

1: Easter visits in Portugal

In Portugal, one of the most common traditions at Easter is the Visita do Compasso (Visita Pascal). This tradition is very common in villages, mainly in the North of the country. Families open the doors of their homes to bless them and to kiss the Cross of Christ. In turn, each family prepares a small snack that symbolizes hospitality towards the priest and his helpers. Another of the Portuguese traditions is the exchange of gifts between godparents and godchildren. On Palm Sunday, the godchildren offer a branch to their godparents and in return receive a gift.

2: Easter in Finland

Finnish Easter traditions mix religious references with customs related to the arrival of spring. We can say that on Easter day, the Finns have a kind of mini Halloween, since all the children usually go out in the street masked as “Easter Witches”, to ask for sweets. Door to door, children deliver willow branches decorated to ward off evil spirits and in return receive sweets.

3: Australia's Bilby

In Australia rabbits are seen as an uncontrollable plague and, for this reason, in this country the Easter Bunny is not so popular! The animal chosen is a native animal, a Bilby, which is nothing less than a marsupial with rabbit ears. Unlike the rabbit, the bilby is an endangered animal, so several confectionery companies got together and started making “chocolate bilbies” to raise money for the conservation of the animal. It was from here that they adopted him as the Easter mascot, being the mythical figure who gives children painted eggs.

4: Greece and the lucky red eggs

The Orthodox religion is prevalent in Greece and that is why Easter is the most celebrated event in the country. This year Orthodox Easter will be celebrated on 02 May. Despite being celebrated later, it also has its own traditions. What really caught our attention was the fact that the chocolate eggs were exchanged for chicken eggs painted in red, symbolizing the life and blood of Jesus. The tradition is to distribute the eggs to the guests at Easter lunch and the last one to keep the whole egg will be lucky that year.

5: Bells at French Easter

In France, the figure chosen to deliver Easter eggs is the Easter bells or Les Cloches de Pâques. Legend has it that, on Holy Thursday, the bells of churches across France are silenced to mourn the death of Christ and remain silent until Easter Sunday. According to legend, the bells would fly to Rome to be blessed by the Pope and ring again to announce the Resurrection of Christ.

6: Gardens decorated with eggs in Germany

Germany in turn focuses on decorating the trees and Forsythias with Easter eggs. After being carefully emptied, the eggs are painted and placed on the plants and trees, thus decorating the gardens. In Germany, Easter eggs are left at the foot of these trees, so that children can find them on Easter Sunday.

7: The exploding cart in Italy

In Italy we are going to talk about the city of Florence because it has one of the most different traditions. We are talking about the “Scoppio del Carro” (Explosion of the Cart, a wagon used for around 500 years and called “Brindellone”). The cart, loaded with fireworks, is escorted to Piazza del Duomo by 150 soldiers and musicians, as well as people who accompany the journey, duly dressed in period costumes. At the event, there is a rope stretched between the altar and the door of the Duomo, and on hung on it a rocket in the shape of a dove that is set on fire to the sound of “Gloria in Excelsis Deo”. When it gets to 9 meters from “Brindellone” it starts a huge firework display which lasts about 20 minutes.

8: Blessed and wet Easter in Poland

One very different Polish tradition happens on Easter Monday, the so-called wet Monday. This Polish tradition is celebrated throughout the country, from small villages to large cities. There are those who believe that when they get wet with water on a wet Monday, they will be lucky for the rest of the year.

9: The boiled egg races in Scotland

In Scotland, eggs are once again the star at Easter, but this time they are cooked and used in competitions. At the top of a hill, children start rolling their eggs and whoever manages to reach the bottom unbroken wins. This is another moment where parents and children share their fun.

10: The egg hunt in England

To finish, we had to select England. Easter begins on Good Friday, but the British calendar views Easter Monday as an extension of the Easter holiday. It is on this day that most families with children take the opportunity to do the famous egg hunt. Egg hunting is really a big event for the English, as it is also quite common to see children and adults dressed as rabbits carrying egg bags.

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Note: This year, due to lockdowns, many of these traditions won't happen. However, hopefully in the near future everything will return to normal.