Easter is for many the time for Easter egg hunts and delicious meals with families and friends after weeks of lent. Even though there are many similar festivities among families from Europe, there are also many other ways people mark this holiday. So, have a look at some unique Easter traditions - and treats - that are celebrated and prepared across our destinations.
Tasty treats from Portugal
Over 80% of the population of Portugal are Christian and Easter meals - centered around eggs and lamb - reflect their long religious tradition. So what are the traditional Portuguese Easter meals?
Roast lamb or goat
Lamb dishes have made their way as the most traditional Easter main dish in Portugal. Roast Lamb (or goat in the Northern parts of the country) can be found on Easter Sunday accompanied by simple roast potatoes.
Folar de Pascoa
Folar de Pascoa is a sweet bread that is traditionally served as a dessert all around Portugal on Palm Sunday. The bread is filled with seven hard-baked eggs, a traditional symbol for the rebirth of Jesus. It has a sweet and savory taste and makes for a beautiful presentation on the Easter table everywhere in Portugal.
The bread also stands for reconciliation and friendship, according to a legend of a young woman (Mariana) could not choose between her two lovers, and the bread was presented to the young lady and the two young men by Santa Catarina to arbitrate their rivalry.
Pao de Lo
This delicious and light sponge cake from Portugal is only made from three ingredients - eggs, sugar, and flour! Recipe variations also use lemon zest or cinnamon. It's a perfect breakfast bread served with jam. Pão de Ló originates from the 15th century and was traditionally made in convents by nuns. It is easy to make, so try out this tasty sweet for your Easter breakfast.
Iceland: All about chocolate
Easter eggs only arrived to Iceland in the early 20th century , but they have become hugely popular since. The special big Icelandic “Paskaegg” (chocolate eggs) is filled with traditional Icelandic sweets - or liquor for the older generations - and also hides an old Icelandic saying inside.
Another special treat for Easter would be the special Easter brews offered by many local breweries over the holidays, which can be found in liquor stores and bars all over Iceland. A “Páskabjór” is usually quite dark and breweries often add a chocolate flavor to it.
Madeira's Easter Sunday start with attending mass and then getting together to eat Easter lunch. Roasted lamb, red wine and traditional sweets (like sugar “torrões) will fill the table!
Besides, during Holy Week, some people from Madeira' play the non-usual game “Balamento”. It is a game played between families or friends or with the neighbors.
Two (or more) people agree to play together, to say the word “Balamento” to his opponent first. It is thus necessary to catch your counterpart or sneak him or her up without getting noticed! The first person who says the word on each day wins one point. The loser offers chocolate covered sweet almonds, Easter eggs or other sweets to the winner. Wouldn’t you like to play the game too?
Scotland’s rolling eggs
In Scotland, families don’t only boil and paint eggs but even participate in an an egg rolling contest. Usually children take their decorated eggs to a park and roll them down a hill. The child whose egg rolls the furthest - without breaking - is the winner! Although it is a a real family activity, egg rolling actually has a religious meaning: the eggs - rolling down the hill - symbolize the stones on Christ’s tomb that roll away which is associated with his resurrection.
Easter in Sicily
Like all over Italy, the Holy week is celebrated with processions and prayers. Many small towns in Sicily have their own traditions. For example during the Holy week in Caltanissetta or Modica, the towns are turned into a stage for ancient processions. In San Biagio Platani, there is an artistic competition between two brotherhoods that spend the week before Easter decorating arches.
The dancing devils in Prizzi
Our favorite tradition is the “Devils Dance” taking place in Prizzi, South of Palermo in Sicily. It originates from a pagan tradition, which displays the eternal struggle between good and evil. During the morning of Palm Sunday, two red devils together with the Death dressed in yellow rage through the streets of the village, playing tricks and capturing the by-passers souls. The event reaches its peak in the afternoon when the trio tries to hinder the meeting between the statues of Christ and the Virgin Mary, but they are driven away by the two angels escorting the procession and happy music fills the streets of Prizzi.
Sicilian Easter treats
Like in many other European countries, most people in Sicily feast on Easter lamb, followed by sweet cakes and pastries. Read further these three traditional dishes will certainly treat your taste buds and a must-try on your next adventure tour in Sicily
Easter lamb pie
This delicious focaccia-like pie filled with lamb and herbs is the traditional Easter Sunday lunch in Ragusa. Every family uses its own traditional recipe and usually it is prepared in a big round shape and uses the whole leg of lamb, including the bones.
This traditional sponge cake made with ricotta, marzipan and candied fruits makes for one of the tastiest fusions between Italian and Arab cuisine. The origin of the cake dates back to the Arab invasion of Sicily in the 10th century when the Arabs introduced sugar to Sicily and it has since been the traditional Easter dessert in Sicily.
“Cuddura” is also a typical Easter treat. It is a sweet bread with an egg (or more than one) in the middle. According to tradition young women gave this delicacy as a present to their beloved ones on Easter Sunday.
Easter, the Irish Way
Easter has always been an important annual event for people in Ireland, no only for its religious meaning but also to celebrate spring time and opportunities for some family activities all around. Easter Sunday is a big family feast with roast lamb, corned beef and leek soup, and for children chocolate eggs to celebrate.
Traditionally, farmers in Ireland that kept chickens marked all eggs laid on Good Friday with a cross and would put them away until Easter Sunday. On Sunday morning at breakfast, each member of the family would eat one ‘holy’ egg as a blessing!
Vitamins and crime time in Norway
Traditionally, many Norwegians make their way to the cabin over the Easter weekend for an adventure break. People would enjoy the late skiing season or the early spring sun outdoors. Time with the family is often spent quizzing or eating “rakfisk” - a fermented fish made from trout and served with onions potatoes and sour cream. Easter is also a popular time to feast on oranges - over 20 million oranges are consumed in Norway over Easter every year, offering a welcome Vitamin C boost after a long winter. This tradition has been linked to the merchants ships returning to Norway in early spring, loaded with fresh fruit from Mediterranean countries.
There is this weird obsession in Norway with crime over the holidays, with crime literature and series on the tele being hugely popular. One popular explanation sees the tradition of “Påskekrim” (Easter crime) being born in Bergen, when two young men decided to write a crime novel in the 1920s. One of the men had a brother working as an editor for a publishing company and he managed to place a front page ad for their novel in the “Aftenposten”, one of Norway's biggest newspaper. The headline read the books title “Bergen train hijacked last night”. As the ad looked like a real article, many people fell for the stunt and the newspaper was swamped with people inquiring about relatives and loved ones safety as they travelled on the train the day before. The paper was published just the day before Easter, causing a huge sensation and entertainment for many people over the holiday and people all over Norway turn into detectives over the holidays ever since.
The Azores: A gastronomic feast
The celebration of Easter on the Azores Islands is filled with various religious festivals and gastronomic traditions that make this one of the brightest times of the year. Many families celebrate this time together enjoying traditional family recipes that are passed down for generations. Recipes are getting replicated the same way as did their parents and grandparents. Some traditional dishes that are prepared at Easter time are lamb, goat, and cot and of course the sweet bread: “Folar da Pascoa.” The small island of Terceira cooks around Easter the so-called Alcatra, named after the actual terracotta dish that it’s cooked in. Alcatra is beef slow-cooked in wine and full of flavors.
Blessing the homes Another traditional event on the Azores is called “compasso” in which the priest in a small procession walks through the village and blesses the homes in God’s name. It is said to bring luck and joy to your home.