Easter is one of the most important holidays of the year and every single country use its own believes, traditions and customs in order to celebrate it as well as possible. It doesn’t matter which religion you belong because every single one contains a bit of truth and each of them deserves to be known.
I believe that Easter is a great opportunity to travel and to explore diverse religions and practices from different parts of the world, a good chance to learn about other cultures because after all, that’s what we – travelers, are so eager to achieve.
Situated in the Mediterranean Sea, very close to Italy, Malta is a country and an archipelago consisting of only 3 main inhabited islands: Malta, Gozo (Ghawdex) and Comino (Kemmuna).
Being one of the most religiously catholic countries in the world, Malta hosts various parades and celebrations during this time of year, which makes it one of the most interesting destinations to spend Easter and the Holly Week.
In 2012, Holly Week will start on the 5th of April, marking the beginning of an intense sequence of parades, traditions and spiritual celebrations. The days with the greatest significance for the people of Malta are: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Sunday, celebrated with great spirituality this year on the 8th of April. Maundy Thursday is recognized by the tradition of visiting “seven churches” and many other interesting practices taking place on the streets of Malta.
On Good Friday, several Maltese towns and villages reconstruct biblical scenes, creating captivating displays. On this important day of the year, there are various parades like the Roman soldiers’ spectacles or the processions where participants, dressed in white robes and hoods, walk with metal chains tied at their ankles or carrying wooden crosses in penitence.
Easter Sunday, though with great religious significance, is dominated by a sweet atmosphere of joy and festivity. Family members gather in order to spend some time together, to have lunch, drink, have fun, exchange presents and to serve the traditional Easter dinner, usually consisting of lamb with potatoes and vegetable. The most popular Maltese Easter sweet is the figolla – sweet baked pastry filled with almonds.
Easter is a good opportunity to visit Malta due to its pleasant climate in this period (20 degrees during the day), the fascinating customs and the rich culture of this tiny sacred place.
One of the biggest holidays in the Italian calendar, Easter or “Pasqua” is very elaborate in the eternal city. Although it might be a little swarming, as many tourists, especially the religions ones, crowd to take part of the important events that occur every year in Rome and Vatican during Easter time, spending this holiday in such a remarkable city will definitely be a unique experience of great proportions.
The last week of Jesus life is solemnly celebrated by pilgrimages, streets blooming in a scent of spring, windows filled with chocolate eggs, greenery and a sweet agglomeration that awakes the ruins, giving birth to a fresh new Rome.
The grandness of experiencing the most important Catholic celebration in St. Peter’s Basilica in the middle of Vatican City, so close to Pope, has a special significance but the small neighborhood churches, each with its distinctive charm, will be able to induce you in the same landscape of traditions and Catholicism.
Besides Easter Sunday, when people usually get together with families, the Italians also have one more reason to rejoice in this period. “Pasquetta” or “the little Easter” is a sort of continuation of the holy celebration and a national holiday held on the Monday after, when people are usually spending time with friends, going to picnic or driving out into the country side to enjoy the nature.
The delicious Italian food plays an important role in the Easter celebration as it always does at every opportunity, weather important or not. Traditional dishes include lamb or goat, artichokes and special Easter breads – Pannetone and Colomba (dove shaped).
If you are a religious person, there is definitely no better destination to spend Easter than the Holy Land, following the steps of Jesus. But, even if you’re not, as it happened to me, you will still be impressed by the uniqueness of Jerusalem, the most sacred place in the world, the city that dates back nearly 4,000 years.
Thousands of Christians from all over the world come to Jerusalem to spend the authentic Holy Week. The celebration consists of a remarkable range of pilgrimages. Following the bible, the holiday begins on Sunday with a gathering on the Mount of Olives and on Monday, it is frequently visited the Dome of the Rock while Wednesday is the day to stopover the Coenaculum. The highlight of the pilgrimage is definitely the walk along Via Dolorosa, the path walked by Jesus Himself.
This one of a kind experience, full of emotion and intensity, does worth, without any doubt, a trip to Jerusalem, weather you are a convinced believer, a curious looking for answers or just a traveler. The diversity and the contrast between the Old City and the new side of Jerusalem, make it a vibrant, modern, cultural destination, one that should not miss from an avid traveler’s portfolio.
The Easter Holiday in Spain is very interesting and besides Seville, Madrid is one of the best destinations to spend it.
In Madrid, during Semana Santa (Holy Week), are taking place over 20 religious processions, starting with Domingo de Ramos (Palm Sunday), when locals will purchase palm branches and laurel in the memory of Jesus.
Mercoles Santo or the Holy Wednesday is marked by the participation of Madrid’s Archbishop at the Stations of the Resurrection.
On Jueves Santo (Maundy Thursday) is taking place a spectacular moment at the cathedral Colegiata de San Isidro: The religious statues of Virgin Maria Santisima de la Esperanza and Jesus del Gran Poder are brought out of the beautiful gothic cathedral by the “costaleros” (the people, usually locals, who carry the pasos proudly on their shoulders).
Viernes Santo (Good Friday) is the day of the Procession of Silence, a parade that circles several emblematic churches of Madrid, starting with Church of Santisimo Cristo de la Fe and finishing with Basilica del Cristo de Medinaceli. At 19:00 o’clock, the participants will stop in Plaza de Jesus spreading on the city’s streets.
Nuestra Senora de la Soledad is the main event of the Holy Saturday (Sabato Santo) and lots of people are attending the march.
The most important event on Easter Sunday is the traditional “Tamborada del Domingo de Resurecction”, consisting in drummers marching and performing in the famous Plaza Mayor.
If you spend La Semana Santa in Madrid, be sure you’ll taste the “torrijas”- an Easter sweet obtained by slices of bread soaked in milk, sugar and egg, fried in olive oil. (I’ve always thought this is a Romanian treat! My mother used to make this when I was a child.)
Bucovina, one of the most beautiful and picturesque areas in Romania, is an excellent place to spend the Easter Holiday.
Besides its religious meaning, the most representative tradition for Easter in Bucovina, is the painting and the decoration of eggs, a beautiful original custom and a veritable art that people of this place practice from a generation to another.
In Bucovina, Easter means being near Good and celebrating the Resurrection of Christ by Christian traditions. Well-known by its beautiful painted monasteries, this silent side of Romania will be dressed in holiday garb and it will taste so good that you will find it almost impossible to leave.
The Holy Week (Saptamana Patimilor or The Passion Week) begins with “Duminica Floriilor” – the Sunday of Flowers, when all the people with flower’s names are celebrated and when willow branches are brought to the church in order to be sanctified.
During the Passion Week, all the Christians should abstain from the human pleasures, weather corporal or food related (the use of animal products is not allowed during this period).
In the Black Thursday women dye the eggs, bake “Pasca” (traditional Easter bread) and, in the evening, all the people go to the church to participate at the Great Denia. Saturday night all the churches are filled with crowds who came to take “Paste”- a piece of consecrated bread, soaked in wine. After the religious service held by the priest, they all leave the church with light candles.
The Great Sunday is celebrated with food, drinks, new clothes and harmony. Most of the families spend this holy day together, at home or they enjoy a barbeque if the weather is pleasant.
A traditional Romanian Easter meal includes boiled and painted eggs, lamb (“drob”, lamb soup or roasted lamb) and cozonac (traditional sweet bread).
A custom that never misses from a Romanian house, for Easter, is knocking the eggs.
How is Easter in your country? Do you have some interesting customs or traditions?