Experience the Easter celebration in other countries
With flowers in bloom, warm weather coming, and nature readying itself for spring, Easter marks the kickoff for something unique in every culture. For Catholics around the world, Easter is a time to celebrate the mysteries of faith that accompany life and death. A time normally spent with family and friends, saturated in food and brimming with fun, the holiday marks more than just a new season.
Between mischievous Easter Bunnies, colorfully decorated eggs, and overflowing baskets, some traditions remain constant across the borders while others stand out as nationally-exclusive customs. This year, take your loved ones on an Easter vacation and experience the Easter celebration in other countries.
Whether you’re interested in a lively Easter party or a solemn and sacred celebration, you can find distinctive ways to express your Easter enthusiasm all over the globe.
Washington DC: Every year, the president opens the White House Lawn for the Easter Monday celebration. The tradition started in 1878 and is a true family event. The White House welcomes children of all ages to participate in the Easter egg hunts, egg coloring, and egg rolling events that take place on the White House lawn. Pack up the kids and book flights to Washington DC so they can enjoy the cool face painting, lively music, and fantastic magicians. Storytelling by children’s authors, athletes, Cabinet members, and other senior administration officials complete the family affair. For cheap flights to Washington, DC, consider flying on Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Paris, France: Booking flights to Paris is a delicious idea any time of year, but the dessert capital of the world does an especially magnificent job celebrating Easter in a sugary, buttery, and chocolatey-kind of way. During Holy Week, windows of Parisian patisseries and chocolatiers become as grand as museums, with the edible artwork equally displayed in glass cases and begging to be consumed. Bright, cellophane-wrapped eggs with white, milk, and dark chocolate chicks live inside big windows. Easter bells – not bunnies – are the center of attention. French folklore says that during Holy Week, the bell tower is silent because the church bells fly to the Vatican in Rome. The bells return early on Easter morning and on their way back to Paris, deposit chocolates and eggs in yards and gardens for children to discover that morning. Start your Easter with flights to Paris to experience an entirely new tradition. Then, do as the bells do and book flights to Rome for a quintessential Easter celebration at the Vatican.
Rome, Italy: When you book flights to Rome during Holy Week, you’re in for a seriously sacred celebration. Holy Thursday starts the spectacle with the blessing of holy oils in Saint Peter’s Basilica. That night, the Triduum officially begins with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. On Good Friday, the tone changes to a completely somber mood. No Mass is celebrated and as a sign of mourning for Christ’s death, many Romans fast and take a vow of silence (or quiet) in reverence. After sundown, the Pope leads the community in the Stations of the Cross in the Colosseum. On Holy Saturday, Mass is celebrated in the evening, and on Easter Sunday, Saint Peter’s Square welcomes thousands of visitors who await the Pope’s blessing, known as “Urbi et Orbi,” from the church’s balcony. Flights to Rome during Easter are usually pricey, but you can get cheap flights to Rome by booking in advance.
Antigua, Guatemala: For an Easter filled with processions, color, and vibrancy, book flights to Antigua and make your way through the town’s streets to absorb all of the holiday festivities. Huge parades cruise in and out of long boulevards and floats (called andas) bear statues of Christ and are carried by hundreds of men in purple robes. A float with the Virgin Mary follows flanked by women dressed in black. The most colorful Easter tradition of all lies in the elegance and craftsmanship of the carpets that grace each road. The custom, called Alfombras de Acerrin, attracts national and international visitors to crowd the streets not only for the processions, but for a peak at the elaborate and beautiful rugs that adorn the route.
Malta: Who knew such a little island country could celebrate Easter in such a big way? Book flights to Malta if you’re looking to experience the sanctified and precise traditions of Holy Week. Churches spring alive with colors, ornaments, flowers, and emotions. A tour of the “Seven Churches” is common – Christians go from building to building kneeling, reflecting, and praying beside the tomb of Christ on Good Friday. The somber attitude of the churches is displayed through its sparse décor and simple red backdrops, symbolizing the death of Jesus. On Holy Saturday night, celebrations start in pitch darkness. One by one, candles are lit, and as the room gets brighter, an explosion of light through chandeliers, bulbs, and flood lights occurs, marking Christ’s resurrection. Actors give midnight performances of biblical stories for entertainment.
Dublin, Ireland: The Irish know how to celebrate, and Easter is no exception. Aside from the jubilant celebrations, the residents of Dublin do make time for the holiness of the holiday, so book flights to Dublin to truly experience the Irish Catholic way. On Good Friday, Dublin Catholics do the customary house cleaning before confession, a way to ready themselves for the renewal and fresh start of the Easter calendar. Saturday is marked by a vow of silence and a nighttime vigil, and the true festivities begin on Sunday. Book flights to Dublin so you arrive on Sunday and can join the other children on their hunt for colorful eggs.
Warsaw, Poland: When you book flights to Poland for Easter, be prepared to feast. Easter in Poland is patented with food – Holy Week kicks off with Palm Sunday, when branches and twigs of palm leaves are used to represent Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. Good Friday’s vigil lasts until Holy Saturday, but before any of it happens (as to avoid baking on Good Friday), a special kind of bread called paska must be made. Decorated with a cross, flowers, and birds, paska is the first significant cuisine of the week. Legend has it that if the bread wasn’t baked before Good Friday, all the pots and pans from the kitchen would be thrown into a pond, followed by the housewife! Then, on Holy Saturday, families bring small baskets of bread, cakes, eggs, horseradish, sausages, ham, salt, pepper, and tiny sugar lambs. Sunday morning, the table is filled with all of the blessed food for families to devour.
Athens, Greece: Orthodox Greeks celebrate Easter with the same voracity that they celebrate Christmas. After 40 days of fasting, Easter Sunday is – quite literally – hungered for. Easter calls for a fervent expression of faith and enthusiasm: Upon arriving from your flight to Athens, you’ll see the Acropolis adorned with green grass and colorful wild flowers, as well as buses and trains proclaiming that “Christ is Risen” in chalk. Churches stay open, and thousands of natives buzz in and out of church admiring the local architecture. In the squares, vendors sell incense, candles, and fireworks. The feast is nothing short of an extravagant street party, and a sure reason to book Greece flights in spring.
Madrid, Spain: Another city known for its incredible processions is Madrid. This Spanish metropolis abandons its towering high rises for Holy Week (known as Semana Santa), and instead revels in its beautifully crafted churches and avenues. Churches open their doors to everyone, and religious statues make their yearly appearance for passerby’s adoration. The Municipal Council of Madrid prepares a full itinerary where men and women (normally robed in bright colors) march through the city, showcasing holy statues and crosses. The sounds, sights, and smells are all overwhelming. If you can, taste the dessert called torrijas, which are sweet pieces of bread made with milk, eggs, and cinnamon. Book flights to Madrid ahead of time to reserve your spot on the sidelines.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: If you’re seriously interested in traveling at Easter, then Brazil is the perfect location, because it is the country with the largest percentage of Catholics in the world. The Easter celebration begins with Carnival, the ultimate party. Dancing, music, costumes, food, drink, and debauchery kick off the holy season in the noisiest way possible, leading to the grand finale of Easter. Holy Week begins with the blessing of palm branches that are woven into crosses, banners, letters, and other religious objects. Streets are decorated, work stops, and both locals and tourists enjoy every minute of the festivities. For a sweet treat, make sure to try a special dessert called pacoca, made with nuts and spices. Since Carnival attracts so many international tourists year round, your best bet is to book flights to Rio de Janeiro as far in advance as possible, since hotels fill up quickly.
(Featured image: terren in Virginia)