Easter is one of the most important holy days in the Christian faith. Easter, which is a “moveable feast” due to the lack of a fixed date, is celebrated in many parts of the world. The celebrations include religious and secular festivities many of which date back to the early days of Christianity.
One of the newer Eastern traditions occurs in Norway, where many of the citizens spend Holy Week reading mystery novels. Television stations broadcast special detective programmes and book publishers even publish special mysteries known as “Paaskekrimmen”. The customs dates back to 1923 when a cleverly worked front page newspaper advert fooled many into believing it was an actual news story.
On Good Friday you will see the skies in Bermuda filed with colourful kites. According to folklore the custom of flying kites on Easter began when a British Army teacher attempted to explain the ascension of Christ to heaven and used a cross-shaped kite to illustrate the Ascension.
In many parts of the world Easter corresponds with the arrival of spring. In many parts of North-western Europe large bonfires are lit to mark the occasion. The fires are set to chase the darkness of winter away as spring arrives. Communities gather around the bonfires to share food and drinks.
In Sweden the day is marked by traditional Easter meals of Jansson’s Temptation, a dish made from potato, onion and pickled sardines baked in cream, along with eggs and herring. Swedish children also dress up as “Easter witches” and go from home to home trading their drawings and paintings for sweets.
The small Caribbean island has a long tradition of combining Voodoo and Catholic traditions into unique celebrations. Colourful parades complete with “rara” music (played on maracas, coffee cans, drums and bamboo trumpets) are common during Holy Week. An annual pilgrimage to the village of Souvenance by Voodoo believers and non-believers also takes place to show devotion to the spirts. The celebration includes animal sacrifices, music, chanting and other forms of celebration.
Finland’s Easter celebrations include bonfires which are designed to ward off witches who are said to fly around on brooms from Good Friday until Easter Sunday. Children also decorate their faces and carry willow branches decorated with feathers from house to house asking for chocolate eggs. (Eggs are a symbol of rebirth and their inclusion as an Easter tradition can be traced to ancient Mesopotamia.)
According to Christian beliefs, Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem. On Good Friday large numbers of Christians celebrate the day by walking the same path Jesus is said to have walked. Many will also carry a cross with them. Many Christians make a pilgrimage to the Garden Tomb, the site where most believe Jesus was buried, to attend a worship service on Easter Sunday
One of the advantages of a mobile population is the ability to be exposed to traditions of those from other cultures and geographic regions. The TransferGo Blog regularly publishes articles about various cultural celebrations, foods and holidays in our Living Abroad section. Please feel free to share some of your favourite Easter traditions or experiences in the comment section below.