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Easter across the World: From Påskkärring to Monas de Pascua

Jedidja van Boven (The Netherlands)

Easter looks a little different depending on the region in the Netherlands; the south has more Catholics than the north, so it is more common to find people involved in traditions like Ash Wednesday and Lent in the period leading up to Easter. However, there are a few other non-religious traditions as well, including globally popular ones like Easter egg hunts. One notable example that can be found towards the east of the Netherlands is the lighting of bonfires (paasvuren or ‘Easter fires’), which is common in a few other, mostly northwestern European countries like Germany and Denmark (and Sweden, as mentioned by Stella below!). These fires were a folk tradition before the spread of Christianity and were often a tribute to Ostara, the Germanic goddess of spring. However, the bonfires were later reinterpreted to refer to the resurrection of Christ. Today, though, the paasvuren are a largely celebratory affair, and are usually not associated directly with religion.

Stella Meyer (Sweden)

Unlike in many other European countries, Easter has become a secular holiday in Sweden. Celebrations usually consist of putting colourful feathers on birch twigs, painting eggs and eating plenty of candy (Swedes are big on sweets!). Many Swedes also eat a typical Easter lunch, containing traditional Swedish festive foods like pickled herring, meatballs, small sausages (commonly known as prince sausages), smoked or cured salmon, and boiled eggs. One quirky little tradition is that kids dress up as påskkärring - Easter witch. They go from house to house and hand out handmade Easter cards or letters in exchange for candy. In some parts of the country, people will also have an Easter bonfire on the night of Holy Saturday, which is supposed to fend off evil spirits.

Alicia Joho (Switzerland)

Swiss people are obsessed with celebrating Easter. Traditions differ regionally and they range from being historical to newly invented. Whilst many of these are religious in nature (such as the Processions of the Holy Week in Mendrisio), we will talk about another very popular tradition: Easter eggs. As in many other countries, you can no longer imagine Swiss easter festivities without easter eggs. “Eiertütschä” (which translates to egg tapping) has almost become a national sport: children and adults compete against each other by hitting the tip of one’s egg on the tip of the other person’s egg, trying to break its shell (sounds weird, I know). Whoever breaks the other person’s egg first can keep it, and is the winner of the challenge. This happens mostly during the traditional Easter Brunch, but not exclusively: since 1892, people gather in Switzerland’s capital city Bern at Easter for the official “Eiertütschä” competition, which is obviously a very serious business. To win the battle, it is important to have the right strategy: The eggs of younger chicken are more robust than other ones; and coloring your egg with a thick layer of paint makes it less susceptible to ruptures.

Luke Cavanaugh (United Kingdom)

Growing up in a secular household in the UK, I was very aware of the religious traditions surrounding Easter, even if I didn’t directly observe them- and remember listening in awe at school as I was told the Easter story (it was one of three school assemblies- along with Harvest and the Nativity- that I really looked forward to every year). But for me, Easter really only meant (and still means) one thing - chocolate! Before chocolate Easter Eggs, painted hard-boiled eggs used to be exchanged in the UK, but thankfully I’m much more likely to receive a Malteaser or Cadbury’s Easter Egg than a painted chicken’s egg! One strange British tradition, still practised in the North of England, is egg rolling. Hard boiled eggs are rolled down slopes to see whose egg goes furthest. Honestly, the things that lockdown has driven us to!

Emika Otsuka (Japan)

Like most other Asian countries, Japan doesn't really celebrate Easter (or at least not in the ways it is in Europe). However, one fun fact is that Tokyo Disney Land actually started celebrating Easter in 2010, and it has been gaining popularity among the Japanese people ever since. It is not yet a big part of Japanese culture, but more and more people are starting to celebrate it - even though it is usually in a pretty commercialized way, as by 2017, around 32 billion yen went into Easter celebrations!

Nawathas Thasanabanchong (Thailand)

With only 1.2 percent of Thai population being Christian, celebrating Easter is not that widespread yet. Generally, the concept and story of Easter remains within a limited sphere in Thailand. Nevertheless, there are many famous Christian churches, such as the Evangelical Church of Bangkok and the Santa Cruz Church, that are often full of Thai christians, expat workers, and retirees at Easter. Moreover, Thai people have begun to participate more in Easter related events through the increase of international schools and communities over the past years. Easter egg hunts and egg painting are the most highly anticipated kids activities, where parents can share their quality time with their kids!

Lisa Ji (Spain)

The Easter period in Spain is locally known as Semana Santa or Holy Week, as events are celebrated during the whole week. Specifically, the festivities begin on Palm Sunday (Domingo de Ramos) and last until Easter Sunday (Domingo de Pascua). Each Spanish region has its own particular customs and traditions; however, one of the common main events during this time of the year is religious processions. These last all week and consist of many people parading through the streets in colourful costumes, carrying floats and mourning the death of Jesus Christ. Similarly to Christmas, Easter is also spent with family as many people take the opportunity to visit their families while schools and universities are closed. During Easter Sunday, families usually get together, and a big meal is cooked and eaten together. In terms of food, one of the typical foods eaten during Easter are Torrijas, which are made of sliced bread dipped in milk and egg, which is then pan fried and sprinkled with a mixture of sugar and powdered sugar. Another traditional sweet treat are Bueñelos, small balls similar to doughnuts (but without the hole). Monas de Pascua is another traditional Spanish Easter cake, consisting of a ring-shaped cake with a whole egg baked into the centre.

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