Easter might be associated with blossoming flowers and the lush green returning to our world. However, while Singapore is continuously hot, in Sweden the ice is just about to melt. Easter traditions can be like the weather – different around the world.
Easter Day not only brings good food and fine wine to our tables, but is also celebrated with diverse traditions. From the sandy beaches of South Africa to the heartland of the US – rich traditions and good food are always part of the festivities, but vary heavily as you cross borders. While Easter Sunday is all about the fun Easter Egg hunt in some parts of the world, the same day bears strong religious traditions elsewhere.
As the Easter holiday is filled with family time around the world, each family often has their own special way to celebrate. While the festivities differ, the reasons remain the same. Originally Easter was celebrated to mark the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In other non-English scripts it is also known as Pasch. While the Easter egg is a symbol of rebirth, the Easter bunny stands for fertility. Festive occasions like Easter Day are great opportunities to bring communities together with good food and intimate moments. Hence, the different traditions developed around the world.
Easter Day Traditions and Food around the World
The traditional beer country has more to offer than the largest selection of different brews. Germany is also the home of various worldwide Easter Sunday traditions. The custom of painting hard-boiled eggs began here. Families traditionally get together and decorate an Easter bouquet by hanging colourful and hand-painted eggs on blossoming branches.
On the Thursday before the Easter Sunday, also known as Gründonnerstag, Germans traditionally eat green coloured foods. Many eat popular dishes, such as chervil soup. Good Friday is known as Karfreitag in Germany and usually celebrated with Fish on the table, as the religious traditions forbids meat on that day. Most people aren’t celebrating strictly religious, but the meatless day has become more of a tradition than a religious condition. One of the traditional dishes on the Easter Sunday is roasted lamb and served with asparagus and boiled potatoes. Another widely popular Easter delicacy is the Easter ham in bread, called Osterschinken im Brotteig.
Besides the common Easter Sunday festivities, Poland extends the Easter holiday to the Monday after. Easter Monday is traditionally the day for water fights. It often starts by spraying perfumed water on young women and eventually turns into a gigantic and fun water fight!
The usual Polish Easter dish on Easter Day is a sour soup broth served with sliced sausages and boiled eggs, called Barszcz Zurek in Polish. The yeasty Babka cake is another treat for the sweet tooth. It is a spongy brioche-like cake glazed with vanilla or chocolate icing. Babka literally means grandmother in Polish and gives us an indication of how important Easter is for the mostly catholic families in Poland. The Babka recipes can vary from family to family and are often a secret handed from one generation to the next. Having the chance to try the traditional Babka cake is a chance one shouldn’t miss.
The orthodox churches in Russia base the time for Easter on the Julian calendar instead of the Gregorian one, which means that Easter in Russia is often slightly later compared to other Western traditions. The orthodox Christians in Russia like to feast with a Kulich. The traditional Easter bread has often a cylindrical form and is topped with white frosting. The highly decorated treat is brought to church in order to be blessed on Easter Day. Similar traditions are held also in other Eastern European countries, such as Serbia, Ukraine and Georgia.
One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns! On the British islands, Easter is the time to sing the Hot Cross Buns nursery rhyme. The famed Hot Cross Buns are just as important as Easter eggs in United Kingdom on the Easter Day. The hot buns are filled with dried fruits and spices. The cross-shaped decoration on top of the buns obviously refers to the religious roots of the Easter festivities. Every Brit surely has those buns on the table on Easter Sunday.
Easter is an important time down in Spain. The holy week, also known as Semana Santa, is last week of lent. Penance procession are performed all over in the deeply catholic country. Hooded men carry crosses and statures of the Virgin Mary followed by drums and devotees, asking their sins to be forgiven. Many devotees fast during during Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. These possessions are held throughout until Easter Sunday and a measure seriousness. The festivities are perhaps not as fun as elsewhere, but surely magical, beautiful and graceful.
When there is a holiday, it is never too early to drink. A traditional Dutch drink is the Advocaat. This festive alcoholic beverage is made from eggs, sugar and brandy. The smooth custard-like flavour makes it also an ideal drink to accompany a dessert. It is quite similar to the traditional New Year’s Eve drink – the Eggnog. So how about a nice little fluffy cocktail on Easter Sunday?
The football nation celebrates a traditionally meatless Easter Day. Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá is one of the most common meals in Brazil for the occasion. The roots of the dish reach back to Portugal. Balcalhau is salt cod with boiled eggs, rice and green salads. Now, that is a traditional and extremely healthy way to celebrate your Easter holiday.
United States of America
Blue, pink, red, you will see a lot of dyed eggs around. This trend is popular not just in America, but also throughout the world. The White House hosts a massive event called the White House Easter Egg Roll, at which kids roll Easter eggs down the White House lawn. This tradition was originally picked up by the Europeans in America and has now become a part of their culture.
An American go-to meal on Easter Day would be the classic Easter ham. This dish is often served with pineapples and cherries to add a juicy touch to the festivities. The fully cooked smoked ham has hints of honey, cider and plenty of mustard as glaze. It will get your tongues wagging!
As the Swedish winter is starting to fade away, the Easter holiday breaks the ice with food-heavy traditions. The Swedish celebrate Easter with Smörgåsbord, which is buffet-style filled table with plenty of food. On display are usually salmon, shrimps, beetroot salad, potatoes, the obligatory meatballs and much more. Surely, there are also plenty of colourful eggs that surround the entire Easter Day celebration. When kids wake up on Easter Day, they are presented with a Påskägg, which is a giant egg filled with sweets. Jansson’s Temptation is perhaps the most famous dish during Easter. This Swedish casserole is made of potatoes, onions, breadcrumbs and cream – lots of cream. But don’t be fooled, it isn’t sweet at all. On Sunday Morning families usually paint Easter Eggs. Kids also dress up as old grumpy women, make small paintings and go from door to door to offer them to their neighbours in exchange for candy.
The Icelandic Páskaegg is a giant Easter egg made out of chocolate and filled with truckloads of sweets. The Páskaegg is supposed to be cracked on Easter Day and considered to be a general Easter greeting. In Iceland it is all about sugary greetings!
At the most southern tip of Africa, the Easter weekend is next to impossible without the typical pickled fish. The Cape Malay, which is an ethnic group in South Africa, eat pickled fish served with hot cross buns or warm bread. Easter down at the cape is a prime example of how traditions can have different influences. Typical South African dishes are combined with the buns of the colonisers.
Most Easter traditions in the world are intertwined at some point along the lines. Shifting borders, migration across oceans and intercultural understanding brought diversified traditions to different places. However, good food and fine wine are the most essential elements for Easter Day celebrations across the world. Easter stands for new birth, new hope and the possible start of something novel. Kick of your holiday by trying some new foods on Easter Day.