Millions of people are going to celebrate Easter this weekend, an important holiday in the Christian faith that is celebrated around the world. Easter originally stems from pagan traditions which celebrated the goddess Eostre and spring. Many of these traditions then merged with the Christian celebration of Jesus’ death and resurrection around the same time, creating the holiday which we now celebrate today.
Celebrations of Easter can vary dramatically across cultures. For some, Easter still has a very deep religious meaning and will be celebrated traditionally with periods of fasting, prayer and feasts. Others will celebrate with a simple meal together with family, a service at Church or games with children.
No matter where in the world you are doing business, it’s important to recognise the importance of this holiday and how it is celebrated when working across cultures. Here are a few ideas of the festivities and traditions you may come across when doing business in the US, France, the Czech Republic and Spain.
Easter in the US
Easter is celebrated to varying degrees in the US. Some people will go to church for every symbolic event during the Easter period while others may only celebrate with a traditional meal on Easter Sunday. Good Friday is a public holiday in the US, but Easter Monday may only be given as a holiday by some businesses so when doing business in the US always ask when your counterparts will be working during this time.
Easter tends to be a very popular holiday with children in the US and often involves events or food around the theme of bunnies and eggs. Easter egg hunts are one of the most common American Easter traditions. Another popular Easter tradition in the US for children and adults alike is egg rolling. The most famous egg rolling race in the US takes place on the lawn of the White House and involves children and parents pushing eggs through the grass with wooden spoons. Children also traditionally wake up to a basket of chocolates, jelly beans and other treats or small gifts on Easter Sunday.
Easter in France
In France, flying bells replace the symbol of the bunny. Children believe that the flying bells hide chocolate eggs in the garden while they are sleeping. This tradition comes from a Christian belief that church bells flew to the Vatican in Rome to see the Pope and returned on Easter Sunday bringing chocolate and eggs. This belief is one reason why church bells do not ring from Good Friday to Easter Monday in France.
To celebrate Easter many families in France will share a meal together and give chocolate flying bells, eggs and bunnies to children and boxes of chocolates to family, friends and colleagues. Easter Monday is a bank holiday so bear this in mind when doing business in France.
Easter in the Czech Republic
The most popular Easter game in the Czech Republic is egg tapping. In this game players must tap each other’s hard boiled and decorated eggs with their own in an attempt to break them without damaging their egg. In some areas of the Czech Republic, men will gently hit women with handmade whips decorated with ribbons on Easter Monday. This tradition can be linked to a legend of the Middle Ages which suggested that women should be spanked to stay healthy and beautiful for the coming year. In Prague, music festivals and Easter markets animate the city.
Many of these traditions are also celebrated in other countries in Central and Eastern Europe such as Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. Home to many Orthodox beliefs, many Eastern European countries celebrate Easter more religiously with periods of prayer and feasts with family. Easter is the period where thousands of Orthodox pilgrims converge on Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The Orthodox Church celebrates Easter according to the Julian calendar, so the date may vary from the Christian calendar. Bear this in mind when doing business in Central and Eastern Europe as working hours may be disrupted in a different way.
Easter in Spain
In Spain the week leading up to Easter called Semana Santa is celebrated with great effort. On Palm Sunday people traditionally attend morning mass and then watch a procession organised by local churches to celebrate the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem. During the procession children and adults will often carry palm leaves for the priest to bless. On Ash Wednesday worshippers may fast and also place ashes on their foreheads as a sign of remorse. This tradition can be seen by many practising Christians around the world.
On Easter Sunday some cities like Almaden de la Plata and Castilblanco de los Arroyos have Easter parades that end with the burning of giant puppets representing famous people. The city of Verges hosts a traditional midnight death dance parade where people wear costumes. At the end of the procession people dressed as skeletons carrying boxes of ashes perform a ghoulish dance. In Sevilla, people will wear penitential robes with pointy hats and walk through the streets following heavy wooden floats carried by men. The streets on the route of the Semana Santa procession are covered with fresh rosemary and people will watch from their balconies waving palms as the procession passes. During the Easter Sunday feast, godfathers will often give their godchildren a traditional cake called ‘La Mona’.
Easter traditions around the world can have a huge impact on anyone doing business internationally. Showing an awareness of the religious and cultural traditions that form part of Easter will help you to not only make a positive impression when working across cultures but it will help you to more effectively manage a period when many people take time off.
Failing to understanding an Easter tradition or not respecting a cultural custom can cause frustration and potential misunderstanding with your international counterparts. A simple greeting, chocolate or card on this holiday could make a huge difference to your cross-cultural relationship, just check what is appropriate in advance.
© Communicaid Group Ltd. 2011