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Easter Customs and Traditions

Easter is the most important feast within the Christian church and holds many services and festivals at this time but it is also a time of celebration and feasting for all people even without the religious aspects.. Even though most of the traditions and customs come from the religious beginnings, it is now a time to enjoy the start of spring and new life and is symbolized with eggs, new-born lambs and Easter bunnies and is aimed mainly at children and the gathering together of families. Easter is commercially important with the sale of Easter cards, Easter decorations and Easter Eggs.

Easter traditions in the English speaking world are much the same with only small regional differences, but they all centre around Easter eggs and small gifts for children. Easter Saturday is normally spent colouring eggs and decorating them, preparing Easter baskets for the next day and baking cakes, such as the simnel cake with it’s eleven balls of marzipan representing the eleven faithful apostles, and sweet Easter breads in various shapes and sizes. On Easter Sunday morning children hunt around the gardens to find their Easter baskets, which have been hidden by the Easter bunny. Families gather together later in the day for the traditional Easter roast which is often roast lamb or a ham. Some countries have egg rolling, where they will roll eggs down a hilly slope to see who wins, this dates back to the rolling away of the stone from the tomb. In Bermuda, which is famous for the growing of the Easter Lily, the main feature of the celebrations is the flying of kites, this symbolises the rising of Christ, and special Easter kites are constructed in the lead up to Easter……Happy Easter

In Germany, Austria and Switzerland is the tradition of decorating trees with eggs, this is known as the ‘Ostereierbaum’ (Easter Egg Tree). A smaller version is to cut some branches and decorate them with blown, decorated eggs and place them in a vase on the table or on a window sill or outside the front door. A famous example of the Ostereierbaum is the tree at Saalfeld, Thuringia. This is an apple tree which sits in the garden of a family who have been decorating this tree since 1965, it started with 18 plastic eggs and has grown now to over 10,000 eggs in 2012. Baking cakes in th shape of lambs, chickens and rabbits is also wide spread…….Frohe Ostern

In Slovakia and Croatia women will prepare a basket filled with Easter foods, such as the coloured boiled eggs, bread, ham, horseradish and nut cake called ‘potica’, this will be covered with a simple cloth and taken along to the church to be blessed by the priest at mass……štastné Velká noc

In the Netherlands, Belgium and France it is said that the falling silent of the church bells on Maundy Thursday is due to the fact that the bells fly to Rome only to return on easter Sunday morning to ring out across the land again bringing with them the coloured eggs and the hollow chocolate eggs and bunnies……Joyeuses Pâques

In the eastern parts of the Netherlands and Northern Germany Easter fires are lit at sunset on Easter Day…..Vrolijk Pasen

Throughout Scandanavia the tradition of colouring eggs for Easter is upheld. In Norway it is customary to stay in mountain cabins and go skiing at Easter and, unusually it is also tradition, nowadys, to read mystery thriller books or watch them on TV. Shops usually observe the Easter holiday by staying closed for the five days, although some food shops will open for a few hours on the Easter Saturday……..God påske The old and the new traditions meet in Finland, Sweden and Denmark, alongside the egg decorating, young children will call from house to house dressed in white and in exchange for decorated branches of pussy willow will recieve sweets, this dates back to the blessing of homes with willow branches. In Sweden Easter dinner will consist of a smörgåsbord of herring, salmon, potatoes, eggs, and other delicacies whilst in Finland it is normally roasted lamb. Bonfires have been lit in Sweden at Easter since the 18th century……glad Påsk

Another country that lights bonfires at Easter is Cyprus, here young boys will search for bits of wood for the bonfire and an effegy of Judus Iscariot is often placed on the top of the bonfire to be burnt…..???Ò IIáo?a

Many countries have beautifully ornate eggs which can be bought in shops or at market stalls, among these are the polish Pisanka, Ukrainian pysanky and the Croatian Pisanica, these are real works of art and are beautiful to put on display at Easter. The egg at Easter symbolises not only the stone rolling away from the tomb of Christ but also new life as the bird hatches out of the shell and it is therefore a universal symbol of Easter…….sretan Uskrs

In Easter Catholic churches and the Orthodox church, eggs are generally dyed red which represents the blood of Christ. The shell of the egg symbolises the sealed tomb and cracking open of it signifies his resurection from the dead. The eggs are blessed by the priest at the end of the \paschal Vigil on Easter Saturday and are then distributed to the people. Baskets of the Easter foods to be eaten by families, are also brought to church on Easter morning to be blessed by the priest. This is a tradition also upheld in Poland……Wesolych Šwiat

In Italy Easter, Pasqua, is a wonderful celebration, the most famous tradition being the Scoppio del Carro in Florence where a huge fire is lit in the square near the cathedral and a firework representing a dove flies high into the air. There are many processions throughout Italy over the Easter period, some even lasting 24 hours in parts of Sicily. Large statues are carried through the streets and prayers said along the way. There are beautifully made Easter eggs on sale everywhere and ones with small gifts inside can also be bought or orders can be placed to have one made with the gift of your choice inside, many an engagement ring has found its way inside a Easter egg. The Easter meal will consist of Agnellino, roast baby lamb, at the centre of the sumptuous feast and it will end with Colomba or panetone, sweet cakes which are also given as gifts at Easter time….Buona Pasqua