Easter around the world
Updated: May 6, 2021
Photo: Alena Koval, Pexels.
In times of pandemic and social isolation, when travel is not really a possibility for many of us, how about bringing traditions from far away to add extra color to our Easter celebration?
Let's say you start seeing children in costumes around the neighborhood, little witches and wizards going from door to door and asking for candy and sweets... If you guessed Halloween, think again. That's actually Easter in Finland.
Photo: Anneli Salo, Easter witches Pääsiäisnoitia IMG 5156 C, CC BY-SA 3.0
Although Easter is a very important Christian holiday, it's celebrated in the beginning of Spring, around the time of the equinox. That's when the nights start getting shorter and the sunlight makes its comeback to the Northernmost countries and it was usually a time for celebration for ancient cultures. A lot of the pagan traditions have thus survived over the centuries and give Easter a different color in Finland.
The celebration starts even before Easter weekend. Children pick willow branches and decorate them with feathers, pipe cleaners, ribbons or whatever their creativity allows.
Willow branch, photo: Rafał Rudol, Unsplash.
There is also a tradition concerning grass. About 1 week before Easter weekend, it's usual to plant grass to salute Spring. One week later, once the grass is long enough, children decorate the grass patch with painted eggs, little chick and bunny figurines or stuffies.
Finally, on Easter Sunday, the little witches and wizards wander around the neighborhoods offering their decorated willow branches, in the ritual known as virvonta or virpominem. They knock on doors, offer the branches and recite a blessing, wishing for happiness and a great year, and asking for a treat in return. It's customary to give children chocolate eggs or other sweets.
The hardest thing for us foreigners is probably to recite (or understand) the virpominen. If you want to try, here it is:
"Virvon varvon tuoreeks, terveeks, tulevaks vuodeks, vitsa sulle, palkka mulle!"
Another tradition of pagan origin is to light a bonfire Saturday night. Ancient cultures believed that evil spirits would wander the Earth before Easter and the bonfire would help scare them away.
The Easter menu in Finland is also different. Lamb is the most common entrée, but the novelty, for me, was the dessert called mämmi. I haven't really tried anything like it. It's something between a pudding and a cake, made with malted rye and molasses. It's usually served with whipped cream, vanilla sauce or ice cream. I'll be honest, the appearance is not very enticing, but my husband loves it (disclosure: he's not Finnish!). If you happen to be in Finland during Easter time, try some mämmi!
Photo: Kotivalo, Mämmi Finnish Easter dessert, CC BY-SA 3.0
Do you want to bring a little bit of Finland to your Easter celebration? How about making some mämmi? Try out one of these recipes: traditional or modified (in case you have trouble finding some of the ingredients).
The big thing about Easter in Brazil, apart from the religious celebrations, is the characteristic Easter eggs.
Unlike other parts of the world, Brazilians have a tradition of chocolate eggs of all types and sizes. And when I say all sizes, I mean it. Think about the largest chocolate egg you can find in Europe or the US: that's about the size of one of the smallest Brazilian chocolate egg.
Before Easter, supermarkets and grocery stores hang up hundreds of chocolate eggs in special displays. Believe me, as a child, it felt like walking into a Willy Wonka paradise!
Photo: José Cruz/ABr, PascoaBrasil, CC BY 3.0 BR
Unlike Brazil, in the US Easter eggs are small and just a plastic shell you can fill out with whatever you want.
Easter eggs are usually filled with candy and small toys and hidden around the backyard or inside the home. Children go on an egg hunt to find their treats. It's common for communities to host egg hunts in parks or schools.
Photo: Gabe Pierce, Unsplash
Here is another cool idea to try, how about having your own egg hunt inside the home? It's a simple and good idea to spice up Easter celebration in times of social isolation. Hide eggs or treat bags around your home or backyard. You can dip 3 fingers in baby powder and simulate bunny footprints around the house to get the little ones excited!
In Germany, it's also common to search for eggs and treats but, unlike the US, the eggs are usually real eggs, boiled and painted. Other treats include chocolate bunnies and nests full of sweets.
The Easter flower arrangement is also a common tradition. Branches with flowers and decorated with painted eggs make the home more festive and is also a different tradition you can copy.
Like in Finland, the celebration begins before Easter weekend. Families get together to paint the eggs that will be used to decorate the home and the nests for the children.
The traditional Easter meal is a brunch that includes special bread rolls and the boiled eggs.
What different Easter traditions have you experienced or know of?