By Rebecca Fending
Easter tends to be a mild or forgotten holiday in the United States as it’s typically nestled into the middle of the busy springtime. However, for many cultures, religions and people throughout the world, Easter is of special importance each spring. Whether it’s celebrating the Sunday holiday exclusively or observing all of Holy Week, here are some fascinating ways in which different cultures celebrate the season.
Passover v. Easter
To start, let’s clarify the difference between Passover and Easter. Passover is the holiday observed in Judaism that focuses on the Hebrews’ deliverance from Egypt. It takes place the Wednesday before Christianity’s Easter Sunday. Passover is meant to be a shared celebration rooted in the deep connect of community. The holiday celebrates the potential good and talent that the Jewish people bring to wherever they are in the world. This contrasts with Christianity’s holiday that revels in the hope of eternal life through Christ’s sacrifice.
Both holidays are meant to display to idea of hope in each religion. So it’s no coincidence that they both fall in the middle of springtime, a time of year where the dead of winter melts away and budding flowers and greenery are on prominent display.
The term “Holy Week” encapsulates the week leading up to Easter Sunday. Some cultures and religions observe the entire week through praise and ancient practices, while others choose certain days on which to focus their worship.
In Poland, Catholics celebrate Palm Sunday, an exact week before Easter. The traditional practice is to cut and bloom pussy willow branches a week before Palm Sunday so that the branches will have blossoms by the celebrated day. Observers will then parade through the streets with the branches in order to celebrate Jesus’s entrance into Jerusalem.
South Africa follows the typical Christian practices of Holy Week, including Maundy Thursday, the day on which the Last Supper was held where Jesus states his well-known directive, “Love one another as I have loved you”. However, they have their own flare associated with Easter in which they consume pickled fish dishes meant to feed the entire family for all of Easter weekend.
Good Friday is typically a less observed holiday among Christians in the United States. The day marks when Jesus was crucified and laid to rest in his tomb. In many cultures, it’s a solemn day met with somber attitudes and worship.
In Italy, Good Friday hosts what’s called “Via Crucis” or Stations of the Cross, as practiced in Catholicism. During this 14-step practice, Catholics recognize events that occurred during Christ’s final day by traveling through 14 different booths were they meditate and worship each of Christ’s actions.
In Germany, Good Friday, called Karfreitag, is met with hushed air. One of the ways in which Germany preserves the somber mood of Good Friday is by prohibiting any public dancing or musical occasions. Although this may not seem like a big deal to us, Germans love to put their dancing skills on display for all to see most days of the year.
Easter is the most important and most celebrated holiday in the Christianity. So it’s no surprise that cultures worldwide go all out once the designated Sunday rolls around. This global celebration of Christ’s resurrection is celebrated in a number of different ways, ranging from feasts to religious ceremony.
Mexican Catholics celebrate the holiday over two weeks, Semana Santa, or Holy Week, and Pascua, the week from Easter Sunday to the following Saturday. Their Easter celebrations consist of a number of different processions through their local streets. Some cultures within Mexico observe Semana Santa through self flagellation, public ridicule or open resolutions and commitments.
France celebrates Easter in a manner that mimics the traditionally more relaxed Easter practices in the United States. Complete with seasonally molded chocolates, egg hunts and a meat-based (although in this case, lamb) family feast, France’s celebrations are among the most familiar for a number of us.
How do you celebrate Easter?