Thank Goodness it’s Friday = Good Friday in fact!
Easter is an extraordinary time, celebrated as early as the 2nd century through to the present day; And with the lockdown restrictions here in the UK easing ever so slightly, the preparations for sensible celebrations still excites us. Our anticipation for adventure with egg hunts, painting eggs, interacting with baby chicks and tiny bunnies, not to mention spending time outside with loved ones from another household (with social distancing). Just the abundance of these humble-filled activities sided with Sunday roasts, hot crossed buns and chocolate-themed treats are enough to keep us occupied and happy all spring.
There’s a long history surrounding this auspicious holiday that dates back centuries, and there are countries that have unique celebrations that may surprise you. From water fights in the streets of Poland to reading crime novels in Norway, people get up to all sorts of exciting experiences that will blow your mind.
Celebrating this in Italy is a grand affair as locals honour a 350-year-old tradition known as Scoppio del Carro, also known as “explosion of the cart”. This folk tradition sees people gathering in masses on Easter Sunday and packing a cart full of fireworks which is set alight, creating a huge spectacle in the city. This miraculous event dates back to the First Crusade when Europeans laid siege to the city of Jerusalem.
Italians celebrate Easter with two essential and symbolic dishes, eggs and lamb. Eggs and lamb are enjoyed with a serving of asparagus in a dish called the “Italian Brodetto Pasquale” and is one of the most loved Italian recipes. Some other dishes they enjoy over Easter include “Neopolitan Grain Pie”, a decadent dessert made with orange-flower water and sweet pastry cream.
Here in Poland, Easter Monday is observed and celebrated, also known as Dyngus Day. On this day, people gather in the street and celebrate by drenching each other with buckets of water, squirt guns and anything they can get their hands on. This exhilarating tradition dates back to the baptism of Prince Miesko on Easter Monday in 966 AD.
Food also forms part of many Easter traditions, and in Poland, the Easter brunch table features multiple delicacies, including the staple Easter dish, which is the “faszerowany jajka”, which is similar to a stuffed egg. This dish is boiled with a breadcrumb topping and filled with ham, cheese, sour cream, and mustard, making them a must-have easter treat.
Easter is celebrated widely in Hong Kong, and a Sunday Service is held at the St. Andrews Church, renowned for its architecture and atmosphere. Easter Sunday and Easter Monday are also public holidays in Hong Kong, and many malls will have easter attractions while some restaurants will feature these holiday-inspired dishes.
For many people and children in Hong Kong, painting Easter eggs is a tradition also known as “Fuhuojie caisedan”, and it’s the most important custom on Easter Sunday.
The Philippines is a Catholic country, so they celebrate the day that Jesus was crucified on Good Friday by nailing people to crosses in honour of Jesus’s crucifixion. Some Filipinos are whipped themselves and wear crowns made of thorns. On Easter or Palm Sunday, they take palm leaves to church and have themselves blessed by a priest. As many people know, it’s been a practice among Roman Catholics to abstain from eating meat every Friday during Lent and the entire Holy Week of Easter. The Filipinos follow this tradition, and a majority of their traditional Easter meals consist of soup, vegetarian, and seafood meals.
Some of these dishes include “Ginataang Tilapia, ” a delicious dish where the fish is cooked in coconut cream and served with banana peppers. Filipinos also enjoy cooking ‘Ginisang Togue” or sauteed mung bean sprouts with tofu and vegetables for lent. It is both nutritious and delicious and provides you with enough nutrition during the fasting period for lent.
The place where Jesus is believed to be crucified, Christians celebrate Good Friday by walking the same path that Jesus did, the day he was nailed to the cross in Jerusalem. Solemn processions also take place on Good Friday, where pilgrims carry wooden crosses to commemorate the crucifixion. Then, on Palm Sunday, the pilgrims descend to the Mount of Olives, singing hymns and bearing palm fronds.
After Palm Sunday, bakeries become overflowing with Easter treats; however, anything baked or eaten up until Easter adheres to the lent fast, and no eggs are used in baked products. Some of the popular easter treats are flat-pressed cookies made with sesame seeds and honey. Others include dates or walnuts, popular fillings for holiday cookies.
Since meat is also restricted (with fasting) during Lent, Easter dinner includes a traditional lamb dinner to break the fast, with many area restaurants being open on Easter Sunday.
Here in Egypt, it is indeed a unique celebration because it coincides with Sham el Nassem, the Muslim spring festival where the pharaohs’ descendants celebrate at the end of winter. The customs and rituals are very similar to how Westerns spend Easter decorating and painting easter eggs and include their favourite dishes such as pickled fish. Eggs and fish are ancient pharaonic symbols associated with the god “Bramhat”, the god of eternity and survival. While the egg is a symbol of rebirth in the Pharaonic tradition and Christianity, fish symbolises the mummification process that symbolises eternity and continued life.
Guatemala comes alive in a colourful and festive Easter celebration during its annual “Semana Santa” Holy Week from March and coincides with Easter. The entire city participates in this mass festival where the streets are covered in colourful carpets preparing for Good Friday. The carpets are made from flowers, coloured sawdust, fruits, vegetables and sand. This vibrant display signifies the “royalty” of Jesus, and Guatemalans also decorate doorways and windows with curtains, bows and colourful decorations.
Similar to the colourful decorations during Semana Santa, Easter dishes in Guatemala are vivid and include an assortment of delicious treats. These treats include tamales, a traditional dish cooked in a pot on an open fire and wrapped in leaves. Another popular dish prepared during Easter is “curtido”, a vegetable mix with all the vegetables cooked in vinegar, fish wrapped in eggs, chickpea sweets, fruit mix, pumpkin sweets, and Pacaya palm wrapped in eggs, and Spondias fruits.
Washington DC is a hotspot for Easter celebrations because there is so much to do! There’s fun for the whole family, from egg hunts to Sunday service to treasure hunts and brunches. Every year, the president of the White House welcomes families to the White House lawn for one of the most popular events during Easter, The White House Egg Roll tradition. On this day, kids race to roll a hard-boiled egg on the grass, and there are appearances by the president and first lady.
On Easter Sunday, an old-age tradition since 1979, is held at the Lincoln Memorial for a Sunrise Service. An hour-long service hosted by Capital Church, starting at 6:30 am, and guests don’t need a ticket to attend.
After Sunday Service, restaurants in Washington DC are packed to capacity as they usually host special Easter brunch. Some of the meals are inspired by Easter, with some restaurants even offering photo opportunities with the Easter Bunny.