Europe boasts an array of holiday customs — ranging from religious and traditional to downright bizarre. Here are some of the most interesting Easter celebrations you’ll find around Europe.
Seville, Spain – In Seville, the capital of southern Spain’s Andalucia region, hundreds of locals dressed in robes take to the streets during “Semana Senta,” or Holy Week. From Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, these robed men wear pointed hoods to disguise their faces as they repent their sins. Throughout the city, streets are filled with brass bands, candlelit floats, and traveling artwork depicting the story of Easter. Many people carry candles up to four feet tall, followed by a parade of children scurrying to gather their wax drippings.
Florence, Italy – In the bustling city of Florence, you will find an Easter celebration that comes complete with a bang! Here, an ancient, 500-year-old cart measuring 30 feet tall is pulled by a team of white oxen to the Piazza del Duomo. Accompanied by 150 soldiers and musicians in traditional 15th-century dress, the cart is packed to the brim with fireworks. After the procession, the crowds will sing “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” the archbishop lights a fuse that ignites a 20-minute firework display. The show, which shoots off from the cart, is meant to guarantee a good harvest and a strong business year ahead.
Prague, Czech Republic – Just as Christmas Markets are to Germany, Easter Markets are to Prague. Each year from March 21- April 12, the tiny side streets of the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square come to life. Offering handicrafts including eggs, puppets, and handmade dolls, you can see schoolchildren shaking rattles to ward off Judas and painting Easter eggs in the streets. On Easter Sunday the celebration leaves the market squares and extends to the homes nearby where boys will whip the legs of other children for supposed good health.
Berlin, Germany – True to German culture, Berlin’s Easter celebrations are rich with custom and tradition. Much of the country celebrates with colorful chocolate eggs and even a holiday break that extends three full weeks for school-aged children. Much of the tradition surrounding the festival comes from food. Traditionally, family meals are consumed on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and a large, festive breakfast for Easter Sunday. Like much of Europe, Germany closes Easter with large bonfires symbolizing winter’s end.
Kardamayli, Greece – Because of the Eastern Orthodox calendar, Greece celebrates Easter about a week later than the rest of Europe. In the seaside village of Kardamayli, Easter celebrations are taken very seriously. Here, you can expect to find a Good Friday parade where the local priest blesses each home; then on Saturday, the entire village turns off their lights and gathers in the town square to light candles. Slowly, the locals return home until the village is illuminated… then the fireworks begin.
England – Easter traditions around the country include Morris dance, an English folk dance based on rhythmic stepping. The dancers, adorned in black and white, come wearing straw hats and red sashes — the real treat, however, is provided by the bells tied around their ankles. The music these dancers make is said to chase winter away. Most traditions tend to be a bit odd, and the dancers are no different. In addition to chasing winter away, they also chase young women. The goal? Hit them with an inflated pig bladder on a stick in hopes of bringing good luck in the New Year.
Sweden – Like the other countries we’ve mentioned, Sweden celebrates Easter with revelry and excitement. Festivities are far less religious here, where the focus tends to be on the arrival of spring and the practice of family customs. Celebrations are kicked off with three days of full-on carnivals and games. Children dress up as Easter witches and take part in activities similar to trick-or-treating, only they trade handmade artwork in exchange for sweets. Families gather around bonfires and gather birch twigs to decorate with brightly colored feathers.