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Easter around the World

Wherever Easter is celebrated, it's a holy day of obligation. All Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and a lot of Anglican Christians are obliged to attend church and receive Communion. Joyous peals of bells are rung, and churches everywhere are decorated. A few parishes still maintain an old tradition of using evergreens (symbolic of eternal life and embroideres in red on white, or woven in straw. But most churches in the US and in the south of Europe prefer festive displays of spring flowers in green, yellow and white - which is the color scheme of the glorious Easter lilies. In the northern parts of Europe, where those huge Easter lilies dont grow, they use the smaller, yellow Easter lilly (a bulb flower) and other yellow flowers.

Holy week and Easter is the most important event of the year. Lent starts at Ash Wednesday. This is 46 days ahead of Easter. When the 40 days of Lent is mentioned it's because Sundays are not accounted into the Lent periode.

The Holy Week (Hebdomas sancta in Latin) starts with Palm Sunday. Carrying palm branches (or a substitue) to this Mass is an expression of love and dedication to the Savior.

Monday is, amongst others, the time for sinners to be received back into the fold after a period of personal penance. In the cathedrals it's two Masses.

The Holy Thursday is the start of Easter, and the mass with commemoration of The last Supper is essential. This is the day on which Jesus installed the Holy Sacrements of the Altar (the Eucharist). So the focal point is to gather around the Holy Table (the Altar) of The Lord for Eucharist and everybody is expected to attend.

Good Friday is the focal point of the 40 days of Lenten period.

Saturday is a day of mourning until evening, and then the Easter season starts with the Vigil Mass. This mass starts on Saturday evening, and this is the most holy, prominent and important Holy Mass and Liturgi of the entire year, because it commemorates the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Easter Sunday Mass is very much like the Masses around the year, but together with the Masses of the coming week, it's like a continuing Easter Mass. A lot of stress is put on Bapism. That dates back to the time when a lot of adults were received into the Church during Easter Vigil.

The Easter Season lasts for 50 days, until Pentecost. This is celebraited on the 40th day, on a Thursday.


Easter celebration in the Orthodox church concerns the essential issues of Life ; death - life, despair - hope, grave - resurrection, creation -redemption . Easter celebration is in a much larger scale sensitive ; movements, gestures, processions, use of liturgic clothing, incense, light, singing, flowers and herbs. The service are signified as "heaven on earth", where architecture, icons and liturgy are woven together to a unity - and where the joining of angles can be sensed.

Palm Sunday is celebrated with a large service, where the priests bless palm-leaf crosses and oil-branches, to take home.

Monday is the day for decorating the church in black. A crucifix is placed on a catafalque in the center of the chuch.

On Holy Thursday Easter eggs are painted red and put away. They're not to be touched until Saturday night. According to the Orthodox church Christ was crucified on Thursday evening.

In Greece it's public mourning on Good friday. The flags hang at half mast, radio and TV only performes serious programs, yellow candles are litted in churches and elegies are sung everywhere. In evening churches performe funeral-processions.

Easter night (Saturday) it's the Great Feast of Joy. Everybody is gathering at church at approx. 11 pm. Everyone is bringing a white candle. Just before midnight all lights inside the church are put out, except one candlelight standing by the Icon in the church center. Just at midnight the priest announce loudly , "Christos annesti" - (Christ is risen) - and the whole congregation answer ; "Yes, indeed He is risen". Everybody embrases and kisses and greets each other with the words "He is risen". The priests light their candles from the light by the icon, and all other candles are lit from these candles. Simultanously firework are let off.

Then people go home carrying the new-litted candles. Due to an ancient tradition they use this candle to draw a cross of soot over their front door. The oil-lamp beneeth the home's Christ Icon, which has been turned off since Good Friday, is litted by the candle brought home from church. Everybody have their "Easter-soup" - and the red-painted eggs are eaten.

Easter Sunday is a great family day, when the Easter lamb is roasted. Everyone is eating, drinking, singing and dancing until late in the evening. During the day it's a service of charity in the churches, which aim is to get friendly with ones enemies.


Lutheran churches have Services during Easter, starting on Holy Thursday, with focus on the the Holy Sacrements of the Altar. At the end of an evening Service all the belongings of the Altar are carried out and the Alter is empty. (usually covered with a dark blue or black cloth).

During Good Friday it's not lighted any candles during Service. This is the only day of the year, when black can be used as the liturgic colour.

On Easter Sunday Service starts with litting candles and lightning up the whole church. The belongings of the Alter are carried inside again and the Alter is decorated with white or yellow flowers. The commemoration of the resurrection of Christ is essential in the Lutheran church, and white and gold are the liturgic colours of joy.

In the Lutheran church it's not quite as strict as in the Catholic church, in assuming that everybody should attend these services. But the churches of Norway and Sweeden have accepted that Easter is a time when a lot of people have a vacation in the snowy mountains. During Easter it's a lot of Services in special "mountain churches".

FRANCE - LE PAQUES (Mainly Roman Catholic)

Church bells are silent from Good Friday until Easter, a token of mourning for the crucified Christ. French children are told that the bells have flown away to Rome. Early on Easter morning the children then rush outside to maybe watch the bells flying home. As the little ones are busy scanning the sky to get a glimpse of the returning bells, their parents hide chockolate eggs, for the children to find later on.

ITALY - LA PASQUA (Mainly Roman Catholic)

Ahead of Lent carneval is celebrated throughout Italy. A lot of places have traditional parades - performed for hundreds of years. (A lot of these celebrations have their own www.pages)

Agnellino (roasted baby-lamb) is universally popular for Easter dinner, especially when served with "carciofi arrostiti " (rosted artichokes) with pepper.One seasonal treat that Italian children (as well as in different other countries) enjoy is a rich bread shaped like a crown and decorated with colored Easter egg candies.


GERMANY - OSTERN ( Partly Roman Catholic and partly Lutheran)

Also in Germany they have traditional parades and festivity. Most German towns and villages have both a Catholic and a Protestant church. Usually it's a board at the border of the village telling when each church has it's services.

Friends give each other beautifully hand-painted eggs made according to distictive traditional designs. Certain patterns have been passed on for generations. On Holy Thursday it's an old tradition to have green-coloured eggs. In many places it was customary for village girls to present red eggs to their suitors.

THE NETHERLANDS - PASEN ( Mostly Roman Catholic in south and Lutheran in North)

All over the country Easter is celebrated as a great spring holiday. Most people have a beautiful decorated Easter wreath on their front door, and decorated Easter eggs are hung on a tree in the garden. Indoors it's decorated with yellow spring flowers. 

In the Nederlands the Easter bunny hids coloured, hard boiled eggs outdoors, and the children use a lot of time running about to find the eggs.



"Paasbrod", a delicious sweet bread stuffed with raisins and currant is one of many traditional feast day specialties.



In the Swedish countryside you can still find the Wich - dolls, full human sized - riding their broom in the garden. Throughout the country the egg, a symbol of life and resurrection, is included in Easter food and Easter games. Many households have egg parties and egg rolling contests are very popular amongst boys and girls.

Easter bonfires are especially a custom in the western provinces. The custom of "shooting Easter in" also lives on, but these days mainly in the form of fireworks.

The day before Holy Thursday it was an old custom to fasten some kind of "message" (it should rather be a silly one) on a person's back. The aim was that "the victim" should be fully uneware of the "message" - and walk about with the message attatched to his/her back all day - a great fun to everybody.

MEXICO (Roman Catholic)

As in other south-American countries Mexico has a lot of festivity around Easter. Some of the events are very special. Several places the whole Easter story is performed during the week - with live actors (chosen among the inhabitans). Some are even letting themselves get cruicified. To attend this Easter celebration is an experience you'll remember the for the rest of your life !