7 Holy Week traditions from across the globe
NEW YORK — Holy Week, culminating with Easter Sunday, is celebrated by Christians of all denominations around the world. While the death and resurrection of Jesus marks the end of the Lenten journey and the holiest time on the Christian calendar, different cultures and nations commemorate it in very different ways.
In the New Testament, the resurrection of Jesus takes place three days after He was crucified by the Romans in the year 30 A.D. The holiday concludes the “Passion of Christ,” a series of events and holidays that begins with Lent, a 40-day period of prayer, fasting and sacrifice. Most Christians refer to the days that lead up to Easter as Holy Week. That includes Palm Sunday and reaches its high point on Good Friday, which recalls the death of Jesus, and Easter Sunday, the day of His resurrection. Easter often even spills over into the following day in what is known as Easter Monday in many places around the world.
New York, for example, is a city of many diverse cultures and faiths. During Holy Week, it isn’t unusual to see both Christians and Jews celebrating the holiday. For Jews, the start of Passover is also this Friday. The holiday recalls the liberation from slavery during ancient Egypt under the leadership of Moses.
There are many ways, both religious and secular, to celebrate Easter in the United States. For example, New York’s Easter Parade, where people show off their festive hats, takes place along Fifth Avenue — near St. Patrick’s Cathedral — each year. With cherry blossoms in full bloom, the White House Easter Egg Roll, an annual tradition since 1878, will take place the day after Easter in Washington, D.C. The event will feature President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump.
But Easter is a global celebration (you can read about all the yummy food people consume around the globe this time of year here) and Eastern rite churches that follow the Julian calendar will celebrate Easter Sunday, known as Pascha, on April 28. Below are seven traditions from around that are worth a closer look:
7. Flying kites (Bermuda) 🇧🇲
In what may be the most-unique Easter celebration out there, people in Bermuda enjoy a traditional meal of codfish by flying kites of various shapes and sizes. While most of them feature either six or eight sides, tourists often join in on the fun.
The reason for flying kites on Good Friday? Legend has it that a teacher was trying to explain to his Sunday school students how Jesus rose from the dead. To explain Jesus’ ascension to heaven, the teacher flew a kite that looked like Jesus to better explain the story.
6. Giant omelet (France) 🇫🇷
There are many ways to celebrate Holy Week in France — and making a giant omelet is one of them. It’s no surprise that food is central to the pascal celebration. Stores across France are filled with chocolate eggs, but real ones also play a central role.
In the southwestern town of Bessieres, some 10,000 people gather on Monday, the day after Easter, to make a giant omelet. The 15,000 eggs, a giant pan and 40 cooks with long sticks are needed to make this massive dish. The tradition began when Napoleon Bonaparte and his army once spent the night near the town. After enjoying the omelet, Napoleon ordered everyone in town to make a gigantic omelet for his army.
5. Burning of Judas effigies (Brazil) 🇧🇷
Throughout Lent, people in Brazil often use straw to make life-sized effigies of Judas, the apostle who betrayed Jesus. The largely Catholic nation is largely famous for the annual carnival celebrations marking the start of the Easter season. Similar festivals are held in other Latin American nations.
During the festival, the Judas effigy is beaten — and sometimes even shot with fireworks — before the depiction of Judas is placed atop a large bonfire and burned.
4. Pope’s Stations of the Cross (Italy) 🇮🇹
The most important Easter event in Italy is the Via Crucis (“Stations of the Cross”) that takes place in Rome on Good Friday.
The event, which features the pope, takes place between the Colosseum and the Temple of Venus in the Roman Forum. The event draws thousands to the Eternal City and reenacts the final moments of Christ’s life.
3. Realistic re-enactment of the crucifixion (Philippines) 🇵🇭
Imitating the suffering of Christ takes on a gory feel when some believers have real nails hammered into their hands and feet. Others drag heavy crosses and crawl on their hands and knees as part of this annual Good Friday tradition.
Although the practice is condemned by the Catholic church, many still choose to participate to show their devotion to Jesus. The events take place primarily in the Central Luzon province of Pampanga, but also in towns like Cutud in Barangay San Pedro, near Manila.
2. ‘Dance of Death’ (Spain) 🇪🇸
It’s not a scene from a Halloween parade, but rather the way some in Spain celebrate the start of Holy Week.
On Maundy Thursday, the day Jesus held his last supper with his fellow disciples, is also the day when the “Dance of Death” is held. People dressed as skeletons march through the town of Verges for what has become a must-see celebration.
1. Splashing of water (Poland) 🇵🇱
Anyone traveling in Poland this time of year needs to heed this simple piece of advice: wear a raincoat!
That’s because Smigus-Dyngus — also known as lany poniedziałek (which translates to “Wet Monday”) — is a Polish Easter Monday tradition that involves people throwing large amounts of water at each other. The tradition, dating back to the 14th century, has pre-Christian origins connected to the March equinox. Like eggs, water is a symbol of life and renewal.