Across Europe, many of the Easter traditions and celebrations are easily recognisable: the Easter Bunny, the Passion of the Christ and, of course, Easter eggs. Yet, among the similarities and shared heritage there are also some startling differences.
Read our guide to discover the various ways Easter is celebrated across our European destinations.
Easter in Italy
Easter is serious business in Italy. The Venice Carnival in the lead up to Lent is the most recognisable Italian tradition. And towns up and down the country host their own processions throughout the week leading up to Palm Sunday, or as it’s called in Italian – Pasqua.
The main event is Easter Mass, traditionally held between Saturday evening and sunrise on Palm Sunday. Ceremonies are held through the country but easily the most important is that hosted by the Pope in St Peter’s Basicllica in Rome.
Of the many notable Easter events in Italy the Scoppio del Caro – the explosion of the cart – in Florence is by far the most spectacular. This grand tradition in the heart of the city is preceded by a great procession before an ancient wagon is exploded with fireworks heralding a bountiful harvest over the following months.
Alongside the obligatory eggs and chocolate, Italians also serve many regional specialities at Easter. In Lombardy it is traditional to provide Colomba, a dove shaped sweet bread made from almonds, sugar and eggs.
Find out more about our Easter holidays to Italy: here.
Discover more holidays in Italy with our friends over at Inghams Italy: here.
Easter in Austria
Image © Österreich Werbung, Photographer: Karl Thomas
In Austria, Palm Sunday marks the start of a week of religious ceremony known as Karwoche (or Holy Week). Austrians make large bouquets of twigs to commemorate Jesus’ resurrection which they take to their local church to be blessed.
Easter markets selling decorations and traditional Easter food are hosted all over the country. One of the most popular is held at the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna and large markets are also held in Innsbruck and Salzburg.
Chocolate Easter bunnies are a popular treat while one of the most distinctive delicacies is Easter Lamb. This confusingly titled treat is actually a type of sweet cake which is baked into the shape of a lamb using a specialist pan.
Every year Salzburg hosts the Salzburg Easter Festival, a series of live classical music performances attracting classical artists from around the world. In the Tyrol the oldest Passion play in the German speaking world, the Erl Passion play, is performed only once every six years.
Find out more about our Easter holidays to Austria: here.
Easter in Switzerland
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Perhaps unsurprisingly for Switzerland, chocolate plays an important part of the traditional celebrations. Easter egg hunts are hosted all across the country.
One unique and charming tradition is Zwanzgerle where children challenge adults to break their Easter egg by throwing a 20 cent coin. If the adult cannot fulfil the challenge the child gets to keep the coin. However, should the adult be victorious they not only get to keep the coin but the egg too!
Alongside copious chocolate consumption the Swiss also host plenty of festivals. Celebrations across the country include Easter processions, markets, music performances such as the Lucerne Music Festival and winter sports events.
Find out more about our Easter holidays to Switzerland: here.
Easter in Slovenia
Image © I feel Slovenia
Food plays an important part of the Slovenian Easter. There are many regional dishes which are traditionally served at this time of the year, most using classic local ingredients: ham, bread, smoked pork and horseradish.
Potica, the iconic Slovenian cake, also forms an important part of the Easter menu in Slovenia. This nut flavoured cake is baked into a ring shape and, at Easter time, decorated with Easter eggs.
Easter egg painting has a much stronger role in the Slovenian Easter. The style of the richly decorated, ornamental painting of the eggs varies according to the region. In eastern Slovenia geometric patterns are popular while in other parts of the country flowers and nature form an important part of the decoration.
Easter celebrations in Slovenia tend to be more low-key. Typically, Palm Sunday is considered a quiet time to spend at home with the family. Easter Monday tends to be livelier and it’s popular to go out to the countryside, spending the day hiking.
Find out more about our Easter holidays to Slovenia: here.
Easter in Norway
Norway has the world’s longest Easter Holiday. Easter begins on the Wednesday when many shops and businesses close for a long weekend. At this time it is traditional for families to head to their cabins in the mountains. This tradition is known as påskefjellet – literally Easter mountain.
The lead up to Easter is also far more important in Norway. Carnival is a hedonistic time which lasts for three days up until Shrove Tuesday and ends with an indulgent feast. During Lent it is traditional to eat baked fasting buns called fastelavensboller.
Crime stories also form an important part of the Norwegian Easter, a tradition that harks back to the 1920s. Easter is now the peak season for releasing crime novels in Norway and, over the Easter weekend, Norwegian TV abounds with crime dramas.
The Sami tribes of northern Norway also have their own distinct Easter traditions. Each year they hold the Sami Easter Festival which includes music, film and even reindeer racing!
Find out more about our Easter holidays to Norway: here.