Happy Easter! Arguably, Easter is a far more important Christian holiday than Christmas, as Easter celebrates the resurrection of Christ, one of the fundamental beliefs of the religion. Around the world, different countries, communities, and cultures celebrate Easter in their own unique ways. Even in Europe, Easter traditions can differ wildly – we visit England, Germany and Spain to explore the differences.
Think Morris dancing and the image of men flouncing around with kerchiefs waving come to mind; this ritual is a remnant of pagan times, when troupes would perform spring dances in order to frighten away winter spirits. Costumes incorporate red sashes, straw hats, streamers, ribbons, bells and wooden sticks; Morris dancers are almost always exclusively male. Another English Easter tradition is egg fights, where two players, both with gaily decorated hard boiled eggs, taps each others eggs – the first egg to crack loses.
More eggy business – in Germany people play the egg dance during Easter, where eggs are placed on the ground and participants dance around them while trying not to break them. There are also parades and markets around Easter, but a quintessential German Easter tradition is the Easter fountain, decorated with flowers and painted eggs.
The Easter Bunny also visits Germany, and decorated eggs are popular here. An Easter equivalent of the Christmas tree is also popular, where fir trees are hung with coloured eggs.
In Spain, Semana Santa, or Holy Week, is celebrated with great fervour. The Nazarenos parade down streets in traditional hoods and dramatic masks, carrying religious statues or relics through the city. Other Spanish Easter celebrations include the Dance of Death, which is danced on Holy Thursday, just before Easter Friday. The tradition dates back to the days of the Black Death. In its modern reincarnation, it involves people dressed up as skeletons going around scaring townsfolk – a reminder that death is near, and constant.