Easter around the world
Our series about holidays around the world continues! Here we come to the most important holiday for the Christian Church: happy Easter everybody! As we have seen so far with our previous articles, every tradition hides an ancient history that bonds it to the most different countries. Symbols, customs and celebrations all have something in common, no matter where they come from. Let’s delve into the roots of Easter, a very popular holiday for kids which has lots to tell!
We all know that this Easter will be really unusual, due to the recent outbreak of the Coronavirus. Nonetheless, our AuPair.com team strongly believes that the best way to react to this crisis is to stay strong and united. That’s why we invite you all to stay at home, enjoy your surroundings and respect other people’s needs. This is extremely important for those who have compromised health and for the older generation. We have the chance to show that solidarity doesn’t know any border. Enjoy your Easter Sunday with your Host Family or at home, with your beloved ones or alone, stay at home and find out how to make the best out of this quarantine Easter.
The origins of Easter
Easter, Ostern, Pashka
the history behind this religious celebration is huge. And, as for many other things, it all starts from the name
. Whether you are a language nerd
or not, you may have noticed the profound differences of the word Easter in the various languages. We can summarize that there are two different origins of the term which designates the current Christian holiday:
The Hebrew Pesah, from the Old Testament, indicates the action of going beyond. Greek and Latin both took this word. Therefore, many romance languages (Italian, Portuguese, French, Spanish) have a very similar term for “Easter”: Pasqua, Pascuas, Pâques, Pascua. But some germanic languages use this very same variant: Pasen in Dutch, påske in Danish and Norwegian.
The Old English eastera, comes from Eastre the goddess of spring and fertility. A trace of the goddess is still visible in the current English term Easter and in the German Ostern. Note that the reference is not casual: as for Eastre, the religious celebration is connected to rebirth and resurrection.
As the word tells us, Easter is an old celebration. It is a religious holiday, told in the Old Testament and in the history of Jews in Egypt. According to the Texts, it was the moment when they were freed and exempt from the plagues caused by their God. The Christian tradition identifies Easter with Christ and his resurrection after the period of Lent. The resurrection happened right in the middle of the Jewish celebration of Easter.
All in all, there are a few guarantees in this planet, one is that life is not eternal, the other is that Eastern comes on Sundays: the calculation of Easter is a bit tricky, though, and it varies according to the Orthodox, the Hebrew and the Catholic tradition. The holiday officially begins on Thursday, the day of the last supper of Jesus Christ. On Friday, Jesus was crucified. On Sunday, a group of women found out that his body was missing from the tomb.
As for every holiday, there are some symbols associated with Easter. But do you know why we eat and colour eggs? And what about the Easter bunny? Find out all the answers here:
olive branch: for many people the olive is a sacred plant. In the Bible, Noah received an olive branch from a dove, as a symbol of peace after the flood. The olive branch represents today a symbol of conjunction and peace.
eggs: corresponding to fertility and new life, eggs have always been associated with spring and they are a particular symbol for many cultures, from the ancient Egyptians to the Persians. Then identified with Jesus' resurrection. Forbidden during the Lent period, they spread as an Easter symbol during the Middle ages, where people used to give them as a gift.
bunny: symbol of new life in pagan celebration. Particularly popular in the US, it was brought by the German immigrants, whose kids used to make baskets filled with coloured eggs. Then the bunny would come to deliver eggs on Easter morning, together with lots of candies and chocolate.
lamb: the Lamb of God is a metaphor for Jesus Christ, the sacrifice for the redemption for the human race. But it is actually older than Christ. For those of you who studied the Old Testament, the lamb may remind you of the Exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt. Jewish people painted their doors with lamb’s blood, the sacrifice for God, in order to save their first-born sons from death.
Around the world: Easter food and traditions
Even if the Easter symbols really unite many traditions, every country maintains its special celebrations. Let’s find out a few of them.
Jerusalem, Israel: we couldn’t have started elsewhere. Jerusalem as the place of birth of Christ, still holds a special connection with the Christian roots. On Good Friday there is a long procession, on the same way Christ was supposed to have walked during the passion. The Ceremony of the Holy Fire follows on Saturday, taking place in front of the tomb of Jesus Christ. But there is another special day, Palm Sunday, the week right before Easter, where people commemorate the entrance of Christ in Jerusalem, holding palm branches.
Italy: the keyword for Easter in Italy is, obviously, food. Like many other countries, on Good Friday people are supposed to eat fish, whereas on Sunday lamb is the main protagonist of the menù alongside with the colomba, a dove-shaped cake. Unlike the Northern countries, there are no egg painting traditions, and kids usually receive a bunch of big chocolate eggs (ostrich egg dimension, so to say) with a little surprise in it. The Monday after Easter, people usually barbecue or go to parks and do picnics. The lucky ones go to the beach. There is also a special saying in Italy, “Natale con i tuoi e Pasqua con chi vuoi” (Christmas with your family and Easter with whoever you like).
Belarus: wondering when you should go to Belarus? Easter may be a good time! In Belarus people play the egg fight: a person holds a hard-boiled egg and taps the egg of another participant. The goal is breaking the other egg, without breaking yours. After a tiring egg fight, you can eat the Paska, an Easter bread typical of the Eastern European countries. It is a sort of cake, salty or sweets, sometimes filled with eggs or cheese. Belarus, as an orthodox country, has also the Paschal Greeting. Instead of saying hello, you might say “Christ is Risen”, and then “indeed, he is Risen”.
France: kids have fun in France too, looking for the lost eggs in the garden and eating tons of chocolate.
USA: the United States launched a tradition that is still very popular. In 1876 the White House hosted the first egg roll race and from this moment on, American Families and Kids are invited to take part in it! Moreover, the US leading market on Easter is the one of candy makers: jelly beans are a beloved product among the Americans. Kids paint eggs as well and some of them may crash after a long descent from the hills. The first one who arrives wins. Baked Ham and Easter Lamb are two typical plates in the US. Last but not least, lots of Americans take part in the Easter Parade, the most famous one being held in New York. People are dressed up in costumes and wear very special flower hats and bonnets. The tradition dates back to the 19th century!
Germany: Germany greets the beginning of spring after a very long winter. That’s why every house is decorated with bright colours, and of course, with painted eggs. Eggs are boiled and coloured by kids, the main protagonists of this holiday. It’s actually a tiring day for them since they have to look for all the eggs that the Easter Bunny (Osterhase) has hidden. If they succeed - and they often do - a nice surprise may follow! Another decoration that comes with the eggs is the Osterzweig “Easter Branch”, a little plant, like a small tree, with nice painted eggs hanging from it. On Easter Sundays families celebrate eating chocolate and sweets, including the Osterzopf, usually filled with eggs. Karfreitag, the Friday before Easter, is also known as a quiet day since no music (including church bells) should be played. If you are familiar with Old German, the reason behind this custom of Karfreitag can be found in the Old German kar, meaning sorrow or grief. The Osterfeuer, "Easter bonfire", takes place in Germany the night before Sunday. It has also been translated into the Christian liturgy with religious meaning, like the light of God.
Australia: some of you may find strange that in Australia Easter comes in autumn. What is really interesting is that the holiday is associated with the harvest period there, a particular moment of the year which corresponds to the change of season. New life and rebirth? A sort of!
Coronavirus and Easter holidays: tips and ideas
If there is something positive about this Easter, it is that there is no need to organize or plan trips and huge family meals. We are all going to stayathome
. But staying at home doesn’t mean getting bored! Following our ideas concerning your quarantine
, we prepared a list of all the things you can do at home with your Host Kids - or even alone - during the Easter holidays 2020!
Luckily, there is no need to go out to fulfill one of the most important Easter tradition! You’ll need just a few eggs, colours and decorations! Every kid will have so much fun decorating their personal eggs. You can also help them prepare a little gift for the members of the family, with a special message or symbol painted on the egg.
If you don’t have a garden, you can still embody the Easter bunny and hide all the eggs the kids prepared all around the house. Be careful because people could stumble on them and make a mess!
If you and/or your Host Family are religious, you can follow various online Masses on Easter Sunday! Even the Church is using technology to get to people’s homes!
Grandpas and video calls
Unfortunately, this Easter won’t be a gathering of the whole family (and some people may also be extremely happy about that). Nonetheless, we are so lucky to have endless possibilities to talk and see our family. Organize video calls
throughout the whole holidays! Your Host Kids will see their relatives on the screen and that could be funny (use the bunny filters on uncle Tom
… he will enjoy it)
Well, the kitchen is probably the most used space in our homes right now. This period of quarantine has given us so much time to experiment and find out the star chef
who is hiding in us. Easter makes no exception! Have fun with your Host Kids
and enjoy preparing delicious Easter meals
with them! Do you know how much you can create from leftovers? Collect the tons of chocolate and candies
and find out the best way to make a delicious plate out of them. Use the kitchen to teach the kids about your culture and let them discover the flavour and the exotic taste of your home country.
Films about Easter
After all these activities, you’ll probably need a break. Is there something more relaxing than chilling watching a movie? Here you are a few movies - mostly kids-oriented - we’d like to recommend to you:
Jesus Christ Superstar (1971). Old but gold. This is one of the most famous musical ever. If you like the genre and rock music, find out this classic!
Rise of the Guardians (2012): the perfect kids’ movie with a very special protagonist, the Easter Bunny, which fights together with many heroes to defeat a tremendous monster!
The passion of the Christ (2004), recommended for the older ones: a cult and masterpiece, where some scenes are definitely too rough for the kids.
The Prince of Egypt (1998): ancient Egypt becomes a cartoon, telling the beautiful story of Joseph as in the Bible.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005). The very famous remake with Johnny Depp. What does it have to do with Easter? Chocolate of course!
The Dog Who Saved Easter (2014). The kids will enjoy seeing this cute dog trying to save Easter!
Peter Rabbit (2018): here the protagonist is a nice rabbit!
Easter as an Au Pair
The current circumstances may have changed our Easter plans for 2020, but it still makes sense to make the best out of it and take a break from the chaos and despair
of recent times. Whether you are with your Host Family
or you are back home, we wish you a happy Easter
! Don’t forget to share your memories and your personal Easter Sunday tradition in the comments below!