European Easter Traditions

Easter Eggs

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Easter is just around the corner, which means it’s time for baskets of colorful eggs and parades. The holiday's origins go back to the Middle Ages and depending on the destination, festivities can range from modest family get-togethers to parade-like celebrations. But how do people celebrate Easter in European countries?

Alongside with Christmas, Easter is considered to be one of the main religious holidays of Christians, commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yet since it's observed by other religions, including Catholics and Orthodox Christians, Easter actually ranks among the most widely celebrated holidays around the globe.


Unlike New Years or a number of other holidays, there is no one specific date for celebrating Easter, it may fall on different days, depending on religion and astronomical factors, needless to say, the customs really differ. With over 40 countries making up Europe, this list can go on and on, so we’ve decided to narrow it down a tad.

“¡Feliz Pascua!” - Spain

Consider traveling to travel Spain in the low season, from the end of March to mid-April, as Spaniards adore Easter. The celebrations are grand and last for a full week called Semana Santa, or Holy Week.

It is actually the largest religious celebration in the country with marching bands, festivals, numerous processions, recitals, reenactments, and traditional religious clothing, including spooky cone-shaped hats.

Many elements of the celebration are common from region to region, yet Andalucia is noted for the most extensive and fascinating ones.

For a delicious treat, make sure to try pestiño pastries or torrijas sweets.

Best Places to Celebrate Easter in Spain:

  • Seville
  • Valencia
  • Barcelona
  • La Rioja
  • Valladolid

“Buona Pasqua!” - Italy

Italians are also fond of Easter, and apart from the week of religious events before Easter Sunday, they actually have the Monday right after it as an additional holiday day, which they call Little Easter or Pasquetta.


Vatican, set in the heart of Rome, becomes a mecca during this time as thousands of people come to listen to the Pope’s mass. If Florence is the city you decide to visit as you travel to Italy, you may find interesting the Festa del Carro parade during which a huge wagon with fireworks is pulled by oxen, then after it reaches the needed point, there is a light show. Depending on where you go in Italy, you can taste delicious cakes, such as the O-shaped ciambellone, pastries or bread, like colomba, or even Italian Easter lamb or agnello.

“S Paskhoy!” - Russia

In Russian Easter is called Paskha. People greet each other on this holy occasion with the phrase meaning "Christ is risen!" and are replied with "He is risen indeed!".

The holiday is a bit less of a big deal than in Spain, yet is a significant day for believers.


On this day Russians bake festive Paskha bread, boil and decorate Easter eggs and go to church with these goods to get them blessed by the priest.

The holiday is more of a family get-together with a festive table but if you have the chance to attend such a celebration as you travel to Russia, you’ll enjoy the element of fun - the so-called “battle of boiled eggs” during which people knock their hard-boiled egg on the other person’s and the egg that's less chipped is considered the winner.

Did You Know?
In Russia, the Easter church service starts on Saturday evening and lasts until dawn. At midnight the bells are rung, and the priest says, "Christ is risen!"

“Happy Easter!” - United Kingdom

There are many traditions in the UK connected with Easter from egg rolling races and egg hunts to Maypole festivals. If your tour to Britain falls during this period, you’re in luck as this is the time for a feast! On Easter people sometimes bake fruitcakes called Simnel Cake, make hot cross buns and give each other chocolate eggs and other treats.


As a matter of fact, it is generally believed that that the tradition of boiling and coloring eggs existed in the UK and this region even in pagan times when it was customary to give them as a symbol of fertility and new life.

“Frohe Ostern!” - Germany

It is believed that the word “Easter” has German roots and derives from the Anglo-Saxon spring goddess’s name.

What is more, the origins of the Easter bunny, the symbol of this holiday, is traced back to Germany too.

But of all the possible animals why the rabbit? People explain that the reason is that hares were probably quite a logical choice to symbolize fertility.


As for engaging German Easter traditions worthy of notice is firstly the lighting large bonfires, promising a bright spectacle welcoming spring.

And, of course, the tasty side of the holiday - doughnuts as well as specially-baked braided bread served for breakfast are worth tasting.

Also if you travel to Germany during Easter time, you’re likely to see beautifully decorated Easter Egg trees, which are another German custom.

Why the Rabbit?
The reason is that hares were probably quite a logical choice to symbolize fertility.

"Sásta Na Cásca!" - Ireland

Irish people have been marking the start of spring since ancient times. The land had become fertile again, birds were laying eggs again, and new animals were born. Christians introduced many of these customs to Ireland after they were introduced to Christianity during the lifetime of St Patrick, around the time of Jesus' crucifixion, which we commemorate on Good Friday. This is how the pagan beliefs surrounding nature's rebirth converge with the concept of Jesus' resurrection.


Ireland's Easter symbols include young lambs, flowers, eggs, and birds. Chocolate or candy Easter eggs are popular in many countries. Easter eggs in Ireland are generally made from hollow chocolate and range from about five to twenty centimeters in height. Usually they are wrapped in bright foil colors. Solid chocolate eggs or other candy are often included in the candy mix.

Easter Sunday is traditionally a day for wearing new clothes. Dressed in yellow dresses and wearing white shoes, some girls wear green hair ribbons. Alternatively, some people pin yellow, green and white ribbon crosses on their right sleeves. Colors such as these and new clothes represent purity and a new start in life.

Easter public life
On Easter Sunday, there is little public activity. Several businesses and organizations are closed on Sundays, as they are every Sunday. Sundays may not be the best day to go to the stores or pubs, even if they are usually open. There is typically no congestion on Sundays since public transportation follows a regular schedule.

"Glad påsk!" - Switzerland

Despite commercialization of the religious holiday, Easter remains a tradition for the Alpine nation. It is not surprising that in Switzerland, a country where chocolate is an almost daily diet, chocolate bunnies and eggs adorned with fine design are a sight to behold (and tasted). During the Christian holiday, the country celebrates much more than just giving tasty treats. There are many ways to share or to use wine, bread, and hard boiled eggs, depending on the region.


In addition to processions with fire, parades with cloaked people and Easter egg hunts, there are many other activities happening during Easter. In Switzerland, some Easter traditions have been resurrected, changed, invented from scratch, and others have disappeared entirely. Throughout history, there are customs and traditions that have been handed down from generation to generation. In addition to marking the passing of winter, for some people this time of year also signals the beginning of spring.

The Swiss game Zwanzgerle is also popular at Easter, similar to Eiertutschen. Easter Monday is when this tradition occurs. However, it is only necessary to use one egg in the case of Zwanzgerle instead of two. Adults often use a twenty-cent coin to break the decorated eggs of their children. In this case, the adult claims the egg if the coin cracks the shell and sticks inside. However, if the adult fails to crack the egg, the child is entitled to the coin. Moreover, it is pretty hard to do this trick with a coin, so kids will likely earn a few cents.

Every holiday is a great opportunity to spend some time with your loved ones. Whether you're staying at home and observing your own traditions or traveling to Europe and immersing yourself in the diverse heritage of a foreign country and the European Easter customs, all of us from Firebird Tours wish you a happy Easter!