Europe's Easter Traditions

Europe's Easter Traditions

The Christian holiday of Easter may celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, but that celebration looks different wherever you go. Here are three Easter traditions you’ll find in Europe.

France’s Chocolate

Of course, the French celebrate how they know best: with good food and what’s called the cloches de Pâques, or Easter bells. 

For Good Friday to Easter Sunday, church bells across France are silenced to mark the death of Christ. Legend says, the bells fly to Rome to be blessed by the Pope, before flying back to France. On their way home, the bells pick up chocolate eggs and sprinkle these over the country for children to find in their gardens or around their homes. 

Beyond bell-shaped chocolates, you’ll find all kinds of creative sweet treats in France’s shops around Easter time. Chocolatiers take this opportunity to create masterpieces from luxury chocolate and high-end ingredients. 

Want a taste of this gourmet chocolate? On a Scenic South of France river cruise or Tastes of Southern France cruise, guests visit the small French village of Tain l’Hermitage. Here, you can experience the Valrhona Cité du Chocolat museum as part of a Scenic Enrich experience. Once the museum’s doors have closed, you’ll learn how chocolate is made from bean to bar and taste some of the finest chocolate in the world — getting the museum, experts and chocolate all to yourself. 


Germany’s Fiery Fanfare

Across the border in Germany, Easter traditions include chocolate, but Germans also bring fire into the celebration. On Easter weekend, large bonfires are lit across the country and Germans gather to eat, drink and socialise. The bonfires mark the start of spring and come from pagan traditions which said that everything the fire’s light touched would be safe from harm. Old Christmas trees are even used as firewood.

In some regions, you’ll find the Osterräderlauf, or Easter wheel race. Here, a wooden barrel is stuffed with straw, set alight and rolled down a hill, adding even more fanfare to the bonfire tradition.

For German fanfare, the Passion Play can’t be beaten. In 1633, a plague was sweeping Europe. Residents in the Bavarian town of Oberammergau promised to perform a play if they were spared which, miraculously, they were.

For almost 400 years, residents have kept their promise, performing plays during Easter time all about the life and death of Jesus. About 2,000 people take part in the Passion Play.

Guests can watch this huge production as part of a land journey from Vienna to Zurich or Prague to Munich, or even part of a river cruise, taking in sights along the Danube or Rhine rivers and visiting Oberammergau along the way. 

Czech Republic’s Whips

Here’s an Easter tradition we bet you’ve never heard of before. In villages in the Czech Republic, boys spend Easter Monder playfully hitting the girls they like with a pomlázka, a whip made from braided willow twigs and colourful ribbons. You’ll see them in Czech markets around Easter time. Legend says it brings health and youth, and the tradition stretches back to the 14th century.

Beyond this centuries-old tradition, the history of the Czech Republic is a rich one. See for yourself on a Jewels of Europe with Prague extension. One optional activity in the Czech capital includes learning all about the 900-year-old Strahov Monastery, with its medieval manuscripts, Gothic paintings and a sense of calm away from the dynamic city outside.

Would you like to explore any of these magical locations? 

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