The Easter weekend is usually a joyful couple of days to spend with family and friends, maybe on a trip or just outside enjoying the sunshine and warmth of Spring. However, Easter 2020 will be remembered as something quite different: the peak of a pandemic, with its consequences on public health and the economy. Many of us, in Europe and abroad, must stay at home and are spending the festive period this year with anxiety and in dismay. For that reason, we at Meeting Halfway think now it is more important than ever to remember and celebrate our manifold European traditions. Here you can read some of the rituals, legends, food traditions, and more from our team members about how we spend this holiday in our respective countries.
Meeting Halfway team / 12.04.2020
The Legend of Flying Bells says that no church bell can ring between Good Friday (not a public holiday in Belgium, by the way) and Easter Sunday. This is because the bells are supposedly in Rome for their blessing. When they return from this trip, they bring the children Easter presents for their Easter nests. In addition, on Easter Saturday small paper eggs fly in parachutes from Belgium’s church towers. Whoever catches a golden egg gets a prize.
Painting eggs in different colours and hiding them in the garden next to the lovingly designed and filled Easter nests – this is what a traditional Easter in Germany looks like. The classic Easter Bunny must not be neglected, nor must the Easter lamb. The latter can be bought as a sweet cake in lamb form over the holidays in all bakeries, along with other Easter pastries.
Easter in Italy is a festival to spend with your family and friends. Among other various traditions, you certainly cannot miss the typical dishes of this special day. From pasta with beans, peas and salted ricotta to the roast lamb with potatoes, our large tables are full of dishes each with a unique taste. And if you are lucky enough to spend this festival in the south of Italy, Easter lunch is completed with a typical dessert: the almond paste lamb. A sweet which brings happiness to adults and children alike. After all, what is a festival if not an opportunity to stay with the ones you love and eat even more than other days?
–Ramona di Bella
In Russia we usually celebrate Easter with family at home. There is a special ritual: we say to one another “Christ is risen!” and answer “Truly risen!”.
Then we eat an Easter cake and coloured eggs. Some Russians also go to the church this day or beforehand so that the priest can bless their Easter cakes and eggs.
There are many traditions and customs surrounding Easter (sw. “påsk“) in Sweden. One of them is the “påskkärring” (“Easter hag”). According to Swedish folklore, witches flew to a mountain called “Blåkulla” on Maundy Thursday and returned to their homes on Easter. Nowadays children dress up as witches in dresses, headscarves and aprons; they walk around the neighbourhood and hand out drawings, “påskkort” or “påskbrev”, to neighbours and friends and receive sweets in return.
In Ukraine the celebration of Easter as the Resurrection of Jesus began at the end of the first millennium, with the introduction of Christianity. Over the years, foreign holidays have become part of local culture, replacing local customs and adapting local rituals and paraphernalia. In the national life of Ukrainians, Easter clearly contains elements of pagan spring ritualism: baking ritual cookies, colouring eggs, games, dancing and youth entertainment, worshiping ancestors, agricultural magic, purification ceremonies, etc.
On Good Friday in the UK we eat hot cross buns, a sweet bread with raisins and a cross on top to signify Jesus’ crucifixion. Even those who aren’t religious can appreciate the Easter weekend because both Good Friday and Easter Monday are bank holidays, so we have a long weekend off work. On Easter Sunday it’s typical for kids to take part in an Easter egg hunt where they search for chocolate eggs delivered by the Easter Bunny, then for lunch it’s traditional to have roast lamb.
We’d like to give special thanks to our authors and to our proofreader Lucy Gannon, who worked very quickly and efficiently on this article to celebrate Easter altogether in spite of the geographical distance between us.
-Alessandra Ivaldi & Milena Parotti