There’s more to Easter than chocolate, hot cross buns and more chocolate. Discover the enchantment of centuries-old religious festivals. Get quirky with wonderfully weird Easter events. Or simply jet off to escape the scurrilous foil scrunching of another Easter treasure hunt. Here’s a rundown of the best Easter events across Europe - and Bermuda.
Go kite crazy in Bermuda
(Yes, we know it’s not in Europe. We couldn’t resist.) The average temperature in Bermuda in April is a pleasingly balmy 23C. That’s plenty enough to get you sprinting to the travel agents. And while you’re sunning yourself on the beach, you’ll see the sapphire skies fill with homemade, lavishly designed kites. No prizes for guessing that they represent Christ’s ascent to heaven. But there are prizes for the most audacious designs, which always promises an ocular extravaganza.
Have an explosive Easter in Florence
Fireworks fan? Then beeline for Florence. For more than 350 years the city’s residents have marked Easter Sunday with a festival called Scoppio del Carro (Explosion of the Cart) - and it lives up to its name. An elaborate, three-story wagon (built in 1622) rigged with an arsenal of fireworks is pulled by a pair of oxen through the streets of Florence to the square between the Baptistry and Cathedral. After a service in the church, the Archbishop ignites a dove-shaped rocket (called the “Colombina”), which travels down a wire to the outside of the church and collides with the cart, setting off a spectacular - and slightly bizarre - firework display.
Find out what happens with 4,500 eggs in Haux
Ever heard of Silent Saturday? (No pun intended.) You have now. On the eve of Easter Sunday, it’s tradition in France for churches to stop ringing their bells for the day. It’s a token of remembrance for the passing of Jesus - though French children are told something different. (That the bells have stopped ringing because they have left their towers and flown to Rome to see the Pope and collect chocolate eggs to shower over France on their return on Easter Sunday.) Regardless, if you’re in France the only place to be on Easter Monday is the village of Haux (about fifteen miles from Bordeaux). Each year the villagers gather to make an omelette of biblical dimensions. Some 4,500 eggs are emptied into a gigantic pan to create an omelette that is measured in yards and feeds over 1,000 people.
Rummage around the roots of Easter in Seville
The week leading up to Easter is a pretty special time to visit any place in Spain. In fact the joyful celebrations of Semana Santa touch almost every corner of the Spanish speaking world. But for an Easter procession to end all others, visit Seville and take in the absorbing re-enactments of the Passion of Christ. It’s a week or revelry, with processions of lavishly decorated floats and twinkling lanterns snaking through the streets. The bars and restaurants of the city are thrumming and celebrations extend well into the small hours.
Visit a place of miracles in Lourdes
Lourdes is one of the most visited places of religious pilgrimage on the planet, making it second only to Paris in terms of inbound French tourism. People flock to the city to see the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes. The spring water from the grotto is believed to possess healing properties and the Roman Catholic Church has officially recognised it as the site of no fewer than 69 miraculous healings. What better time to visit than Easter? Not least because the city bears witness to torch-lit processions towards the beautiful Rosary Basilica overlooking the city atop Pic du Jer.
Hmm. They sure love smashing things in Greece. Giving the plates a rest and turning to terracotta instead are the residents of Corfu, who get busy on Easter Saturday morning throwing pots full of water from their balconies to crash on the ground below. Watch your head! For something a touch more subdued visit the small town of Leonidio to watch hundreds of handmade balloon-lanterns fill the night sky on the eve of Easter Sunday.
Grab a taste of tradition in St Albans
Bet you didn’t know the humble hot cross bun originated in St Albans. That’s one theory anyway - and if you’d rather stay local this Easter, you could do worse than a visit to find out more. (St Albans Cathedral is the oldest place of Christian worship in Britain and was also the location of the First Meeting in 1213 that led to the sealing of the Magna Carta two years later.) The hot cross bun (or Albun Bun as they called it) originated here in the 14th century when Thomas Rocliffe, a monk at St Albans Abbey, developed the recipe and distributed buns to the local poor on Good Friday. Here’s to you, Thomas! Alban Buns are on sale throughout Easter at the Cathedral.
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