Easter Around The World

By Julia Burgi

Easter, technically, is the Christian holiday celebrating the rebirth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It has been around for thousands of years and coincides with the rebirth of life in the Northern hemisphere, spring! This holiday is not only religious, but a time of cultural celebration as well. Every country, even region, has its own Easter traditions!

In Sweden, children paint eggs and dress up as witches to go around door-to-door in the neighborhood exchanging tokens with their neighbors. According to folklore, the witches of Sweden fly to Bla¥kulla, the Blue Mountain, to meet the devil, a journey the children imitate. In the evening, a large family dinner is served, a smorgasbord of herring, salmon, potatoes, and eggs, to name a few dishes.

Further south, France is a predominantly Roman-Catholic country of many churches and church bells. On the Friday before Easter, countrywide, the church bells cease to toll and parents tell their children that the bell's chimes have flown to see the Pope in Rome. On Easter Sunday, the bells ring out all day, accompanied by decorated Easter eggs, which have returned with the bells from Rome.

India, on the other hand is only 2.5% Christian, but still has vibrant Easter traditions. Goa, a former Portuguese colony, is the epicenter of the Easter Sunday celebrations and host to grand Color Carnivals. Families bake elaborate cakes for their loved ones and the streets are lined with colorful lanterns that family and friends have exchanged.

Argentina, another mostly Christian country, has a multi-week celebration around Easter. First, the week before Lent is a big, colorful celebration known as Carnivale. One week before Easter, beginning on Palm Sunday, the streets are filled again, this time with processions and reenactments of the week preceding Jesus' death, known as Passion Plays.

The Easter festivities in Mexico are similar to those in Argentina in their timing, but vary in the actual traditions. One of the most distinctive rituals is the burning of giant, birghtly colored effigies of Judas, Jesus' betrayer, for comic relief after a long day of vigil on the Saturday before Easter. The next day is one of the most packed in the churches of Mexico and street fairs in the public plazas with street foods galore follow church services.

Each of these countries has in common the religious aspect, but also the renewal of the earth, life, and spring colors around them - clear even in the diversity of how they choose to celebrate!

How do you celebrate Easter?

Photo: RichardBH on flickr

What Are Hot Cross Buns Besides Part Of A Children's Song?

Hot cross bun, hot cross bun, one-a-penny, two-a-penny, hot cross bun! But what are hot cross buns besides part of a children's song? (The song isn't even a song; really, it was a street hawker call in London that became popular for children to repeat.) These small buns are considered symbols of the cross Jesus died upon, but have reigned in popularity for centuries due to taste!

Hot cross buns are a leaven, spiced bread baked in the same shape as a roll. Usually there are raisins or dried currants inside, and in some places, even candied citrus fruits. The most variation, though, comes in the form of the bun's quintessential cross.

The cross can be made with excess pastry dough placed on top of the bun before it's baked, it can be cut out of rice paper and pasted on top, it can be carved in with a knife before baking, or drawn on in icing afterwards.

While hot cross buns are sold year-round now in some places, such as the UK, they are traditionally eaten on the Friday before Easter, known as Good Friday. However, this style of baked good, like many traditions now associated with Christianity, likely precedes even Jesus' birth!

Buns with crosses on top were supposedly eaten by the ancient Saxons of England and were said, in Medieval times, to ward off no only evil spirits, but mold, with their cross. It wasn't until the 18th century that hot cross buns were associated with Easter celebrations, mostly because Protestant England began to frown on the sale of the crossed buns.

Even when foods aren't purely religious in their history, they can have strong associations with spirituality! Eating is a great way to connect to traditions and other people.

What foods do you celebrate Easter with?

Photo: ozmafan on flickr