Easter around the world

Our contributors describe Easter celebrations in their countries, how traditions have changed over the years and the history and significance of those celebrations. They share their family traditions as well. Learn more about Easter in Australia, Costa Rica, France, Portugal and the United States.

Easter bilby

Photo: Australian Bilby Appreciation Society

Australia – Liz

Easter in Australia can be summed up in one, sweet and very commercially oriented word – chocolate! For at least a month leading up to Easter chocolate eggs and bunnies can be spied creeping their way all over the supermarket shelves. While the religious meaning of Easter is pertinent for some, most Australians enjoy the four day weekend and chocolate fest that ensues.

Popular options include the Lindt gold bunny, Cadbury crème eggs and the uniquely Australian chocolate bilby, a chocolate incarnation of a near extinct native animal, similar to a bandicoot. People also love to scoff hot cross buns which appear in bakeries during the month leading up to Easter.

The Easter bunny traditionally leaves chocolate eggs for kids overnight in the vein of Santa Claus, while some families have adopted the Easter egg hunt, though this isn’t something that has always been typical of the Australian Easter (when I was a kid no-one did this – I think we’ve adopted this from Europe and the US in recent years). However the chocolate arrives, as long as it does I say!

Costa Rica – Nuria

Nuria shared that “in Costa Rica it does have a very religious meaning, and we actually celebrate the whole week, so for us it’s “Holy Week” instead of just “Easter”. Read more about Costa Rican Easter celebrations here.

France – DeeBee

Easter celebration is huge in France, even if the religious meaning has been lost for most of us. Easter is just a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the beginning of Spring, the season of Renewal!

And…there would be no Easter celebration without bells. They stop ringing the day Jesus died and ring again throughout the whole country at the end of the Easter Mass, and –this is the best part- they bring with them a cargo of chocolate eggs which they drop over the gardens of France to celebrate the renewal of life (the egg symbolizes the resurrection of Christ and His rising from the grave).

French chocolate bunny and eggs (credit: DeeBee)

The children eagerly await the exciting Hunt for Easter Eggs that are scattered in the bushes and flowers of their garden – not by the bells of course but by their parents! Easter eggs used to be ordinary hard boiled chicken eggs that were painted; today they are made of chocolate!

Children might also find chocolate bunnies! The tradition of the Easter Bunny is older than that of the egg as it goes back to the pagan era, long before the Christian Easter had been invented, because the rabbit was considered as a symbol of fertility, a very appropriate symbol for this time of year that coincides with the arrival of Spring!

The best memories I have of Easter is coming back from my hunt with a basket overloaded with chocolate eggs! The bells were always very generous.

We kept the tradition going with our children and nothing was more rewarding than watching the big smile on their face while they were filing their baskets with chocolate eggs.

Happy Easter celebrations to all!

Portugal – Sandra

“Easter in Portugal is a very special occasion for godparents and  godchildren. The tradition says the goddaughter or the godson should visit the godparents and ask for the Folar, a kind of bread or cake, salty or sweet, depending on the region of the country. In the North, it’s salty and the most famous is the Folar de Chaves. In the South, it is sweet and the most famous is the Folar from Olhão, Algarve. Only this one has the egg placed in the middle of the Folar. The Folar Algarvio is also eaten in Lisbon and Coimbra (center region of Portugal).

This special bread/cake is a symbol of brotherhood, friendship and reconciliation, and when covered with eggs, as in the South, it is also a symbol of fertility, rebirth and resurrection. The obligation of giving a Folar to the godsons ends when they become adults (18 years old) or when they marry. The godsons should offer too a present to their godmothers a week before on Palm Sunday: a violets bouquet and a bag of sweet almonds.

Also in the North of Portugal, a Folar is offered to the local priest when he goes to the village to visit and blessing the parishioners’ houses . We call  this visit and procession “Compasso”. “

 United States – Sean

Easter is kind of an afterthought in the USA now, unless you’re particularly religious (I’m not).  Easter for me is mostly memories of Easter egg hunts, ham, obscene amounts of chocolate (especially giant chocolate bunnies), Cadbury eggs, Peeps and having to dress up nice for church in uncomfortable clothes. If I was with my grandma and grandpa it was four church services in three days during Holy Week.  We used to have an Easter get together with my mom’s family every year, but stopped when I was about twelve (it was too much work, I think).  I don’t really eat candy anymore, so my “Easter basket” from mom is usually beef jerky and cash.

Shelves full of Easter products at an American supermarket

 United States (West Coast) – Jason

Both myself as a child, and now my kids, remember getting up early Easter Sunday and hunting through the house for large wicker baskets nested with plastic “grass”, filled with chocolate candies, a big chocolate bunny and packets of vegetable plant seeds (a nod to the spring planting season). This baskets were presumably left by the mythical “Easter Bunny”…who has always been my mom. My mom usually did this for me and continued the tradition for my kids until one day my son said “I know that the Easter Bunny is really Grandma”.

We of course denied this but the charade was put ot the test once when we went on vacation during Easter without Grandma.  Without Grandma, I’d considered that the whole tradition might die a natural death, but the day before we left she brought over two smaller baskets with the requisite goods wrapped in cloth and I packed it in the back of the car for the trip.  That Easter the tradition lived for another year and I told my son “See…the Easter Bunny is not Grandma.”

Sometimes our family hunt is expanded to a shared hunt amongst family friends: multiple families will congregate in the host family’s backyard and let the kids go on a hunt for hard boiled and painted Easter eggs, strategically hidden by the host dad. For every hard-boiled egg, about 3 or 4 bright-colored plastic eggs filled with small chocolate candies are needed to maintain the kids’ interest.

There might be an Easter brunch for our family but no church for us as we are not religious. I’m comfortable with this secular scenario, but my wife struggles with it a bit…she has a hard time ignoring her more religious upbringing.  As long as their is chocolate involved, the kids are fine with it as well.

 

Read more

Mardi Gras – Carnival season

Festivals from around the world

Hot cross buns: an Easter treat from the UK

 

 

About the author

Ana Astri-O'Reilly
Ana Astri-O’Reilly is from Argentina, where she lived until five years ago. She currently lives in Dallas, USA with her British husband, but they move a lot. Previously a translator and English and Spanish teacher, Ana first started writing to share her experiences and adventures with friends and family. She speaks Spanish, English and a smattering of Portuguese.
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2 Comments

  • How interesting to read about different Easter traditions around the world. They all seem to have onene thing n common: chocolate eggs!
    I like the idea of giving one’s godmother a bouquet of violets and a bag of sweet almonds for Palm Sunday and getting the traditional bread in return, on Easter day. It somehow strengthens the bond between godchildren and their godparents and it symbolises sharing bread like Jesus did with his disciples at the Last Supper.
    Whether you are religious or not, these traditions serve to bring people together and share moments… and food, of course!

  • I like this Easter bilby, it’s different from the bunnies and eggs we have in Western Europe!