Easter is fast-approaching and it tends to be a time of celebration. Many rejoice the four days away from the workplace, others gorge of chocolate eggs while some finally give into their vices as Lent draws to a close.
In Europe, they do things a little differently with each country, and sometimes each city, having their own special customs, however quirky they might be. Easter also provides the perfect opportunity to enjoy a week or two in the sun. If you are jetting off in the coming days, you may want to know about the traditions of some of your favourite destinations.
Here are just a few places which take Easter really seriously.
Seville loves to celebrate Easter, so much so that it turns into a whole week of festivities. Semana Santa (translated as holy week) begins on Palm Sunday before Easter and sees thousands of people flock to the streets.
The procession through the heart of the city involves huge floats (pasos) being carried by an army of bearers (costaleros). To hoist the float is seen as a great honour but each man has to support a weight of 50kg for around eight hours, so it’s no walk in park!
The highlight of the weekend is the midnight walk on Good Friday when processions move from churches at midnight to reach La Macarena, a shrine to the city’s Virgin of Hope. Also, don’t be shocked to see church members in Ku Klux Klan looking garments as these are traditional veils designed so that only God knows the person’s true identity.
Florence is one of Italy’s most beautiful cities and celebrates Easter in a way only it can. The city is a hive of cathedrals and duomos so naturally it makes a big deal about this holy week. While church services take place throughout the weekend, the most anticipated spectacle is the Scoppio del Carro (the explosion of the cart).
Taking place in Piazza del Duomo on Easter Sunday, it is a tradition that has been going for over 300 years. The cart, or Brindellone as it is known, is paraded through the streets being pulled by white oxen.
It is loaded with fireworks with a wire leading into the cathedral where the ‘Colombina’, a rocket shaped like a dove representing the Holy Spirit. The 20-minute display is supposed to guarantee a positive year ahead.
Photo credit: George M. Groutas via Flickr.
Easter is the biggest holiday on the Cypriot calendar and signals the end of a long fasting period. With many natives part of the Greek Orthodox Church, Lent is taken very seriously and means no meat, poultry or dairy products for 40 days.
However, when Easter rolls around it is a huge celebration. During Holy Week there is a scent of traditional Cypriot flaounes cooking in the air gearing up for Easter Sunday. On this day there are a series of church services followed by an almighty feast.
Families and friends gather together to enjoy Cypriot fare such trachana, a creamy savoury soup of wheat and yoghurt, and then ovelias which is a whole roast spiced lamb cooked on an open charcoal fire with as many sides as you can think of, while watching a huge fireworks display.
Like with Seville, Tenerife celebrates Easter in a very traditional manner. As with its mainland counterparts, it begins on Palm Sunday and continues through the week. In true Canary Island style you can enjoy torrija, eggy bread similar to French toast, before joining in with the festivities.
The Easter Sunday services include processions through the streets in marking the Resurrection. Again, there are a few fellows donning pointed hats as well as artists recreating the Easter story using flowers, plants and branches.
If you do plan on going to Tenerife, get down to the beaches early because they fill up quickly around Easter time.
Greeks love to celebrate Easter but nowhere throws a better party than on the island of Corfu. You can enjoy a feast of maghiritsa, a tripe and herbs soup, followed country lamb prepared on a spit and served with cracked red eggs.
Holy Week begins on Good Wednesday and carries through to Easter Sunday when you can experience a truly unique celebration. To the chants of “Christos Anesti”, a procession of bands parade through the streets and people hurl clay pots from windows and balconies.
At night it is much less rambunctious as people attend the various Catholic and Orthodox services in Duomo. As the streets are lit up with thousands of candles the service comes to an end with The Resurrection of Christ and a huge fireworks display.
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