Easter, which celebrates the resurrection of Jesus, is one of the greatest holidays for Christians all over the world. The Holy Week (or Semana Santa), which leads up to Easter Sunday, features colorful traditions, religious processions, delicious foods, parades, flower carpets and more. In addition, the Easter Bunny, chocolate eggs and bright decorations make Easter a favorite holiday for children. Europe tends to observe incredibly diverse Easter traditions, and they vary from country to country. Comparatively, the Americas, Asia and Australia also have unique ways of celebrating this holiday.
Devoted Catholics from all over the world flock to Rome to participate in a holy mass, led by the Pope, at St. Peter's Square in Vatican City. Hundreds of thousands of people stand for hours for the sake of this unique religious experience. Holy Week is a busy time in Italy, but it’s also the most special time for a true believer. In Sicily, Easter is marked with the famous Dance of the Devils. Tuscany is another destination where Easter traditions are especially picturesque: one major highlight is “Scoppio del Carro” or “the explosion of the cart,” which is a cart packed with impressive fireworks; another is a colorful procession in which participants wear costumes and carry statues of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary.
Easter is the most important holiday of the year in Greece. In Athens, spectacular candle-lit processions take place on Lykavittos Hill. A quest for unique Easter traditions might also take you to Seville, Spain, where the Easter processions feature ‘pasos’ (floats) carried by teams of ‘costaleros’ (bearers). Women wear lace mantillas, and gather on the streets to view the religious performances.
In Switzerland, you can go to the town of Romont in the Glane district of Fribourg where they hold an unusual procession called "Les Pleureuses" (women mourners). Or visit the small Bavarian town of Traunstein, where festively-adorned horses and carts, accompanied by musical bands and groups, head to the town square where sword dancing is performed by residents in traditional costumes.
North American cities such as New York and San Francisco are famous for their massive Easter parades. Thousands of participants wear elaborate bonnets decorated with Easter eggs, bunnies and flowers, and just about anything you can imagine! New Orleans, is never the one to miss a party, and thus has several parades to choose from: the Historic French Quarter Easter Parade, the Chris Owens French Quarter Parade, and the Gay Easter Parade are just some of your options. And not to be outdone, Toronto hosts a huge Passion Play, the world's largest Easter parade, and countless egg hunts.
If you prefer to be further south, visit the colonial city of Trinidad on Cuba's South Coast, where The Way of the Cross Procession on Good Friday is one of the most important annual events. In Brazil, a country that has the world's largest population of Catholics, a dazzling Easter procession in Ouro Preto makes its way along a four-kilometer flower carpet. The La Semana Santa flower carpets of Honduras and Guatemala also adorn the central streets, where costumed participants march in a colorful procession that pays tribute to the crucifixion.
Jerusalem is undoubtedly the most iconic place to celebrate Easter. After all, Jesus himself walked the streets of the Holy City in the last days of his earthly life. Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday are celebrated massively by both Catholic and Orthodox communities of Jerusalem.
The Philippines is perhaps the most devoted Catholic country in Asia. To celebrate Jesus' entry into Jerusalem, the locals buy coconut leaves on Palm Sunday (to use in place of palm leaves) and get them blessed. In Senakulo, a reenactment of The Passion of Jesus Christ is performed both on a stage and in the street. Street performances and processions are also popular in provinces of Rizal, Bulacan, and Pampanga.
Indonesian Christians also pay tribute to Jesus' Resurrection. The people of Central Borneo have a tradition called Memento Mori—they visit family tombs to honor those who have passed away.
Australia has its own Easter traditions that differ from the rest of the Christian world. The Easter Bilby, rather than the Easter Bunny, is the main symbol of the holiday. A bilby is a marsupial that is native to Australia and has been an inhabitant for 15 million years. In recent decades, their numbers have dramatically decreased, making bilbies an endangered species that need support. Australians contribute to the preservation of bilbies by buying chocolate Easter Bilbies.