Top Ten Easter Traditions From Across Europe

April 1, 2021

This weekend many countries across Europe will get two extra days off to mark the festival of Easter, when Christians come together to celebrate the rising of Jesus from his tomb. Whether you are religious or not, there are many Easter traditions that have arisen from this festival over centuries. From easter egg hunts to easter trees, hot cross buns to fish and chip Fridays there are plenty of ways to celebrate this Easter. Take a look at some of our favourite European traditions below.

1. Hot Cross Buns

Hot Cross Buns are a must for any kitchen on Easter weekend and these sweet treats have been around for centuries.

The first recorded reference to hot cross buns in England was from this 1700’s ditty: ‘Good Friday come this month, the old woman runs. With one or two a penny hot cross buns.’ However, the tradition can be traced even further back to the pagon Saxons, who would bake hot cross buns at the start of spring to honour the goddess Eostre – most likely the origin of the name Easter.

Similar sweet breads are shared at the Easter table across Europe. In Poland a braided, enriched sweet bread for breakfast is eaten and in Germany a yeasted dough is enriched with plenty of butter, milk, and eggs, and studded with raisins or bits of candied peel.


2. Easter Egg Hunt

In medieval times, during the six weeks leading up to Easter, known as Lent, eating eggs was forbidden. Once Easter rolled around, people celebrated by consuming eggs. As time passed, boiled, poached and fried eggs were soon replaced with chocolate and to add more fun into the mix, the Easter Egg hunts were born!

The origins of the Easter egg hunt come from Germany, dating back to the late 16th century when the Protestant reformer Martin Luther organised egg hunts for his congregation. The men would hide the eggs for the women and children to find. This was a nod to the Christian story of the resurrection, in which the empty tomb was discovered by women.

These days they are a popular way to get kids out in the fresh air hunting for their longed-for chocolatey treats!


3. Palm Sunday Decorations

The Sunday before Easter, known as Palm Sunday, was the day Jesus arrived in Jerusalem. To welcome him, people lined the streets with palms. To this day, schools, churches and community groups continue to mark this day by making their own palms.

In Lithuania, palms are made from juniper, dried and freshly sprouted leaves and flowers and are known as verbos. In Poland, people make multicoloured palm leaves with tissue paper, flowers and ribbons and there are often competitions for the best ones. In the Netherlands, they forego the palm making for bread baking. Loaves are baked in the shape of a rooster to celebrate the Easter and the start of spring.


4. Easter Sunday Egg Painting

In Lithuania, on Easter Sunday, families paint eggs together using wax and paint to create elaborate motifs. Another way of decorating the eggs is to cook them wrapped in onion skins, tree bark, or other plants that leave coloured patterns on the eggs. This is also an old English tradition, the marbled effect on the eggs created are known as ‘pace eggs’ from the Latin for Easter, pascha.


5. Easter Sunday Egg Smashing & Rolling!

During Easter Sunday dinner in Lithuania, the strength of the eggs is tested when two family members take an egg each and hit them off each other. The one with an egg intact, wins.

Easter egg rolling is also common in many European countries. The aim is to roll your egg as far as possible without cracking it and the winner of the furthest rolled egg is predicted to have a great year.

6. Easter Bunny

The Easter bunny is a well-loved part of the yearly celebrations but did you know it was originally created to act as a ‘judge’ evaluating whether or not children has been good or bad at the start of Easter? These days the Easter Bunny is much more relaxed and generally delivers eggs to all children.

In Lithuania, it’s an ‘Easter Grandma’ who delivers chocolates and small presents to children on Easter morning and in Switzerland it’s an Easter Cuckoo who delivers the eggs.


7. Good Friday

On Good Friday,’Karfreitag’ in German, traditionally no church bells are supposed to ring, no songs are sung and no music should be played as this is the day Jesus was crucified. The word Kar comes from old German Kara, meaning sorrow or grief. For many places, this quiet time also means it is still illegal to dance on Good Friday. Maybe save those dance moves for the Easter Saturday bonfire…

8. Easter Saturday bonfire

The German tradition to light a great bonfire and gather around it on the evening before Easter Sunday, traditionally marks the end of winter and the coming of spring. Some say it also drives away the evil winter spirits. Easter bonfires are lit in many countries across Europe and in some areas of the Netherlands annual competitions are held to build the highest or neatest fire.


9. Fish & Chip Friday

Lots of us enjoy fish & chips on a Friday but have you ever wondered where the tradition came from? For Catholics, Good Friday is a day of fasting, when fish should be eaten rather than meat. This is to respect the day on which Jesus was crucified. Easter Sunday is celebrated as that is the day that he rose again from his tomb.


10. Easter Trees

In Germany, an Osterstrauss in your home, a bouquet of budding fruit tree boughs clustered together in a big vase and hung with colourful painted Easter eggs. Sometimes the eggs are interspersed with little handcrafted wooden ornaments in the shapes of bunnies or smaller birds’ eggs. Depending on how far along the boughs were in their development before being cut, sometimes little blossoms will pop out over the course of the run-up to Easter.


So there you have it, the top ten European Easter traditions we’ll be getting onboard with this weekend. What’s your favourite?

Comments are closed