This is the second post of our Easter tour and travel blog series. Introducing the original traditions of Scandinavia and the European North, the authenticity of the West and the emotion of the European South.
As a reminder, in our first Easter travel post, you can read about unique Easter traditions and tours in Central and Eastern Europe. Here’s our selection of some of a unique European Easter traditions combined with tours ideas for a memorable travel experience!
Northern Europe – Authentic Traditions and Innovative Tours
Norwegians read mystery novels, watch detective series on TV or go up to the mountains for a family weekend. On Holy Saturday, people carry pieces of unleavened bread wrapped in a white cloth in their pockets and eat it at midnight. The custom was common in the Viking era when the Vikings brought evergreen berries with them, which symbolized life. It is also common in Denmark.
Make your Easter tour authentic to the country. Experienced travelers know you should take the Oslo – Bergen rail and discover the beautiful scenery of Norway. Skip hotels and go uphill, stay in a cabin – like a Norwegian. Here you’ll find families spending Easter days skiing, taking in some sun, eating and drinking. And of course – forget not to bring a boller and Kvikk Lunsj with. The latter is standard “snack fare” Norwegians bring along in their backpack when going skiing (a sort of a national pride). On the other hand, Fastelavnsboller, (bread buns) is a sweet pastry flavored with cardamom. It’s been traditionally eaten by anyone who wants to call themselves a Norwegian.
Finnish and Swedish Children Collect Sweets for Easter
Finland and Sweden have a special tradition of their own. Small children, especially girls, get dressed in witches’ costumes and collect sweets from door to door in exchange for a decorated pussy willow. The custom is a mix of Orthodox tradition of blessing houses with pussy willow branches and the tradition of Scandinavian witches.
In Sweden, as well as in other Scandinavian countries, the color of Easter is yellow, eggs are not brought by bunnies, but chickens. Homes are decorated with birch twigs and feather ornaments. Since there is nothing blooming yet at that time, gardens get nicely decorated. Some of the most popular and unique Scandinavian attractions are definitely the Northern lights. Easter tour tip – book one of the most unusual hotels in Sweden to see this nature’s wonder.
Finland Winter Fairy Tale
In Lapland (Finland), the province of Santa Claus, people sing and dance playing with snow, make snowmen celebrating the resurrection of Jesus and the awakening of nature. At Easter, for good luck, Finns hit each other on the back with a set of birch twigs. Children go out to the streets, banging and making noise to announce the end of Lent silence. Finland is a place of its own winter fairy tale. Hop on your Easter tour to Lapland. It still offers a stunning Northern lights experience at this time of a year. One of the most popular attractions is also the Linnanmaki Amusement Park. Here you will find a spectrum of fun rides, from very scary to more relaxing.
There’s a similar custom in the UK. People tap each other on the back with pussy willow for good luck. Otherwise, children were not familiar with Easter bunnies and Easter eggs in the UK for a long time. Easter walks and parades like, carnival ones, are more accustomed. There are numerous unusual walking tours in every major city to start with. You can also meet the Easter bunny, take part in Easter competitions and enjoy Easter treats from getting into the original Robin Hood spirit in the Sherwood Forest. What’s a better way to hook into the Easter optimism and celebration of new life than in a forest Easter tour?
Ireland has a peculiar Easter tradition, herring burial. Herring (a type of fish) were the main course in a time of Lent and fasting. People, especially butchers, would start eating meat again after this fish funeral.
Ireland is a magical place full of surprises and great fun. There numerous things to do and possibilities for creating an Easter tour of your own. But if you find yourself in Dublin this Easter, you should join the locals who celebrate the centenary of The Easter Rising – one of the key moments of the struggle for Irish independence which began on Easter Monday 1916. There will be many memorial services taking place in the city – from ceremonies and the parade to exhibitions.
Western Europe – Blending Diversity & Culture
People in Germany love Easter. It is one of the most popular holidays in the country of origin of many Easter traditions. Easter signals that Spring is coming. Besides the traditional religious ceremonies, Germans decorate their homes with branches and painted eggs. They hide the baskets filled with Easter eggs and chocolate figures in their gardens for the youngest members of the family. There is also a tradition of decorating trees with sometimes thousands of colored eggs. Another special local custom is a traditional Easter horseback ride between Kamenz and Bautzen in eastern Germany. There is also horseback procession in Traunstein, Bavaria, which originates from the 18th century. Locals get up on their horses and ride around their churches to get a blessing. This custom also includes the traditional sabre dance, which symbolizes the victory of spring over winter.
The Easter bunny is probably the most important symbol of the holiday. Did you know that the first edible Easter bunnies were made in Germany?
Many Germans travel for Easter. Both Good Friday and Easter Monday are a public holiday with all the shops and businesses closed. For travelers, Easter weekend German style includes enjoying Easter markets, festivals, and special treats, from marzipan and chocolates to yummy cakes and pastry. Take a city Easter tour!
In France, Easter is Celebrated 4 Days
France is another European country with a strong Catholic background. Easter is celebrated for the full 4 days. Clothe volant or flying bells are specific for French Catholics who believe that church bells in France fly to Vatican on Good Friday. They carry all the grief of those who mourn Jesus’s crucifixion. The bells return on Easter Sunday and bring lots of chocolate and eggs. There are also processions on Good Friday. In Chateaux Vaux le Vicomte, outside of Paris, the largest egg hunt takes place. This becomes a great fun for kids and their parents. There is a special tradition in Toulouse and Nantes surroundings. In villages, people have the custom to prepare a giant omelette on Easter Monday for all the villagers.
Easter celebrations in Switzerland are quite unique and spirited. The country blends in many different traditions since Swiss originate from different cultures. For example, it’s the cuckoo that brings Easter eggs. In terms of religious festivities, people enjoy Biblical passion play, join the procession in the streets and go to ceremonies in the church.On the Easter day, children search for colorful eggs in the house first thing in the morning. The winner with the most number of eggs is rewarded with an egg and bunny shaped sweet. The streets are full of Easter decorations – colorful eggs and ribbons on wells and fountains. Easter Monday has its own special game called “Zwanzgerle” – especially popular in Zurich. Children challenge adults to break their colored eggs with a coin. If the adult is unsuccessful, kids get the coin. Town of Romont in Western Switzerland has a special tradition of it own. It is a custom of the so-called “weeping women” – women carrying nails, thorn crown or Veronica’s handkerchief on a cushion in the streets. There’re lots of other different Easter tours and activities offered, from chocolate bunny molding workshops to group egg hunting and egg bashing in Bern.
South Europe – Easter Tour of Emotion in Italy & Spain
Visiting Italy – Florence, Trapani, Prizzi, San Marco in Lamis, Alghero, Modica or Rome… is inevitable for those who like to experience some of the most popular religious events. For example, there’s a nice custom on Lampedusa island. People forget all quarrels and misunderstandings at Easter. On Holy Saturday, Sicilians take dog-tooth violet flower to their homes. They believe it has magical powers on that day and brings joy and fulfillment of all your desires. A good belief to embrace 🙂 Italians traditionally eat their special Easter cake “Torta di Pasqua” – a salt cake with boiled eggs and spinach.
Spain is a very popular Easter travel destination. Semana Santa, or the Holy Week celebrations, are declared to be the International Tourist Interest in Spain. Spanish Catholics are very passionate about Easter, celebrating the life itself. They get very actively involved with spectacular Easter street processions of brotherhoods and fraternities. Streets get packed with people from all around the world. These parades take place in almost every city. But each is unique and special. Sevilla and Malaga are known by some of the most impressive Easter celebrations in the world.
People say that the overwhelming emotion and religious tone underlying these festivities are indescribable and stick with you for life. Spain is really a place to be if you want to experience the richness of Easter and it’s symbolic!
This is just a piece of the rich European Easter heritage. There is more. Basically, every country in Europe has its own unique tradition and special customs of Easter. Please share them with us, along with your special Easter tour tips and things to do!