Easter Around the World
From palms to puddings, the ways Christians celebrate reflect both diversity and a common bond.
By Amy Merrick
In churches large and small, here and abroad, Christians celebrate Easter in surprisingly different ways. Yet they all honor Jesus' sacrifice and promise of eternal life. And together, they weave a rich tapestry of religious and cultural traditions.
In the U.S., as well as across the world, the last week of Lent – the week before Easter – is known as Holy Week. Special services and traditions this week may include:
In some churches, palms are carried and may be shaped into crosses on this day, one week before Easter, to commemorate the day Jesus returned to Jerusalem.
On this day, Christians remember the Last Supper when Jesus celebrated his last Passover with his disciples. Many churches strip their altar, symbolizing Jesus being stripped of his garments as he awaited trial.
Christians commemorate Jesus' crucifixion on this day, with many gathering in churches around noon to remember the hour when He died on the cross.
On the first Holy Saturday, Jesus' disciples mourned his death. Today, many Christians gather for an Easter vigil at night. Historically, Christians were baptized on this day.
Many people attend sunrise services on this day that marks the Resurrection of Jesus. Churches may be decorated with white lilies, which grew in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed.
Here's a look at a handful of traditions in other parts of our world.
In Ouro Preto, Brazil, residents create beautiful "carpets" of wood shavings, flowers and other natural materials on a street that connects two churches. On Easter Sunday, some people dress as Bible characters and angels and join a procession down the decorated route.1
Capirotada, a bread pudding traditionally served at Easter, features symbolic ingredients. The bread represents the body of Christ, cinnamon sticks evoke the wood of the cross, cloves represent the nails and cheese stands in for the holy shroud.2
Church bells fall silent on Good Friday, representing the grief of Jesus' crucifixion. According to tradition, the bells fly to Rome to be blessed by the pope. They return to France on Easter Sunday, where they ring again in celebration of the Resurrection.3
A fruit cake topped with marzipan, called simnel cake, is a traditional Easter dessert. Eleven balls of marzipan decorating the cake represent the faithful apostles.4
Christians in Greece dye all Easter eggs red. The color represents the blood Jesus shed on the cross, and the eggs symbolize the tomb from which He rose from the dead.5
Families in Poland bring "blessing baskets" filled with colored eggs, bread and other foods to church to be blessed. The tradition signals that Lent is over.6
Many Lebanese Christians give up meat, sugar and dairy during Lent to honor the sacrifices Jesus made. When Lent ends after 40 days, they treat themselves to a traditional shortbread cookie stuffed with dates or nuts, called maamoul.7
1 "In Pictures: Easter Sunday," March 31, 2013, BBC
2 "Mexican Easter Bread Pudding With a Long Culinary Lineage," April 4, 2017, Chicago Tribune
3 "French Easter Traditions, Vocabulary and Ideas for Celebrating in Paris," Jan 4, 2015, French as You Like It
4 "The Dark Side of Easter: Foods Named for Judas Offer Taste of Treachery," April 13, 2017, NPR
5 "Why Do Greeks Dye Easter Eggs Red and How to Do It," April 7, 2015, Greek Reporter
6 "9 Fascinating Easter Traditions From Around the World," Reader's Digest
7 "Maamoul: An Ancient Cookie That Ushers in Easter and Eid in the Middle East," April 11, 2017, NPR