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Easter Celebrations in Europe

Easter Card with Les Cloches De Pâques

You might be wondering how other countries celebrate the same holidays as in the United States. It could even be fun to visit different countries during Easter and learn a new way to celebrate. If you are interested, you can try to incorporate some of these fun Easter celebrations into your Easter traditions.

Many of the same symbols that are seen in US celebrations are present in Europe, such as eggs, candies, and planters of flowers.

Easter Eggs by gedankenabfall on Flickr
Decorated Easter Eggs

Italy

On Good Friday, the Friday before Easter Sunday, the Pope celebrates Via Crucis, which means the Stations of the Cross. This is a huge ceremony, which is conducted in multiple languages and ends with a blessing from the Pope.

In Italian, Easter is called Pasqua. This is a huge celebration for Italians, and takes up both the Sunday and the following Monday. The celebration on Monday is called La Pasquetta. To celebrate, Italians throw a big parade through the streets. In the parade, they carry a large statue of Jesus or Mary. The celebrations of Pasqua end with a large family meal.

There are also masses held for Pasqua in every church. The Pope lives in Italy, and conducts a mass on Pasqua in Saint Peter’s Basilica.

La Pasquetta Easter Parade by Erica Schoonmaker on Flickr
La Pasquetta Easter Parade

Greece

Greece celebrates Orthodox Easter about a week or so after Easter is celebrated in the United States. It’s called Megali Evdomada, or The Holy Week. Megali Evdomada is full of festive celebrations.

Starting on Thursday, the celebrations take on a more serious tone. On Thursday, they celebrate with the Service of the Holy Passion. A bread called tsoureki is traditional for that Thursday, as well as boiling and dyeing eggs red, which is a symbol of Christ’s blood and resurrection.

On Good Friday, bells are traditionally rung. It’s the day that Christ was buried, so they have a solemn mass and procession around the church.

Easter Saturday is celebrated with an evening mass, and traditional Easter Decorations of bells and candles.

Sunday signifies the end of a fasting period and is celebrated with a large meal of roasted lamb. Tsougrisma is a game that is played where people hit eggs together, and when your egg cracks you lose the game. The winner is blessed with good luck.

Greek Tsoreki Bread by Ingrid Richter on Flickr
Greek Tsoreki Bread

Spain

Similar to celebrations in Greece, Spain celebrates la Semana Santa (the Holy Week), starting on el Domingo de Ramos (Palm Sunday). There are parades in the streets with statues of Jesus and Mary. Floats are decorated with gold and silver, candles, and flowers. Floats are carried by costaleros, who are men that trained for several months to carry the float at the parade. Una saeta is a song traditionally sung during the parades.

On el Jeeves Santo (Holy Thursday) the town of Verges has a famous celebration called La Danza de la Muerte where people dress up as a skeleton family and dance to drums.

Meat is never eaten on el Viernes Santo (Good Friday) out of respect because meat symbolizes the body of Jesus.

El Domingo de Resurrección (Easter Day) and el Lunes de Pascua (Easter Monday) are happy celebrations. Church bells ring and there is a tradition of eating lamb.

Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Spain by Guadencio Garcinuno on Flickr
Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Spain

France

In France, Easter is called Pâques. They celebrate with flying Easter bells called Les Cloches De Pâques instead of the Easter Bunny. Traditional stories say that bells grew wings and flew to Rome, where they were blessed by the Pope. After the bells were blessed, they came back on Sunday morning with presents and candies for children. Bells are not rung between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

Easter egg hunts are also celebrated. They are called La Chasse Aux Oeufs, and are celebrated on Sunday. In modern celebrations, they use candy and chocolate eggs.

Les Cloches De Pâques
Vintage Postcard depicting Les Cloches De Pâques