Celebrating Easter across Cultures – Easter Traditions around the World

Matthew MacLachlan

5 Apr 2012

All over the world people are looking forward to the coming Easter Sunday which marks the height of the Holy Week and the end of the 40-day-long Lent period. Easter is an annual festival observed throughout the Christian world whose date shifts every year within the Gregorian calendar.

As Easter is always celebrated on the first Sunday after the ecclestical full moon following the Vernal Equinox it can be as early as 22 March or as late as 25 April. Depending on the predominant use of either the Gregorian or the Julian calendar Easter is celebrated on different dates. Western churches using the Gregorian calendar are celebrating Easter this year on 8 April while for Eastern Orthodox churches, using the Julian calendar, will celebrate it on 15 April.

Easter traditions throughout the world differ from country to country according to their ethnic and cultural origins. Working effectively across cultures requires an awareness of these differences and the varying degrees of importance placed on this holiday. Below are some customs and festivities you might come across when doing business in Russia, Australia, Norway or Mexico.

Easter in Russia

Due to the coexistence of Western Christians and Eastern Orthodox Christians in Russia Easter is celebrated according to both traditions, this year either on 8 April or on 15 April. When doing business in Russia you should bear this in mind, as working hours can be disrupted differently.

One unique ritual that both denominations in Russia share is the picking of pussy willows. In this custom your neighbour or loved one pierces the branch of the soft blooms kept on their shoulder. Other traditions you may find when doing business in Russia at Easter include the colouring of eggs in bright and vibrant colours and Easter egg rolling contests.

After strict fasting and busy preparations for the Easter lunch on Holy Saturday, Easter Sunday is typically celebrated with an Easter breakfast or lunch. The typical food including Kulich (Easter bread), Paskha (a dish made from cheese and other ingredients) and eggs is sometimes blessed by the church before being eaten together in family circle.

Easter in Australia

Australia is a land of people belonging to different cultures which is why Easter celebrations take place in a variety of ways. Varied Easter festivals in Australia like ‘Perth International Arts Festival’, film festivals and the ‘Sydney Royal Easter Show’, an annual show featuring the varied multicultural heritage of the nation to the vitality of the city life are also showcased during this season.

Unlike most other countries the main Easter symbol in Australia is not the traditional bunny but the bilby – a small rodent with a long nose and ears just like a rabbit.  To show their concern for this endangered animal Australian chocolate manufacturers make Easter bilbies and share some of their profits to help to protect these animals from extinction.  Easter bilbies, eggs and chocolates form part of the custom of the Easter Hunt, where children hunt around their homes and gardens on Easter Sunday for hidden chocolates and eggs.

Easter in Norway

In Norway, the Easter holiday is longer than in many other European countries and therefore one of the most anticipated holidays as well. Beginning on Wednesday afternoon before Maundy Thursday, Easter in Norway lasts until Tuesday morning.

When living and working in Norway you will find that although Easter is a religious holiday, many do not celebrate is as such. Lots of people retreat to their cabins or go skiing instead. Nevertheless, Easter symbols like chickens, Easter eggs and Easter bunnies – all predominantly in yellow colour – as well as the custom of the Easter Hunt are typical in Norwegian culture.

One unique Easter tradition in Norway is reading Påskekrimmen (crime novels) or watching detective stories. Each year, nearly every TV channel produces a crime mystery for Easter and even the milk company prints family-friendly crime stories on their cartons.

Easter in Mexico

In contrast to some European countries Easter in Mexico still is of great religious importance and is therefore one of the most widely celebrated holidays of the year. Easter holidays are a combination of Semana Santa (Holy week), from Domingo de Ramos (Palm Sunday) until Domingo de Pascua (Easter Sunday) and Pascua, celebrated from Resurrection Sunday until the following one. Only Maundy Thursday and Good Friday are public holidays, but students and many workers enjoy a two week break during this time.

The Easter week in Mexico, as well as in many other Latin American countries is filled with religious processions and passion plays of which the most important one is the presentation of the Vía Crucis which shows Jesus being sent to be crucified. When living and working in Mexico you won’t come across any mention of the Easter Bunny or chocolate eggs on Easter Sunday. Easter Sunday is generally a day when people go to Mass and celebrate quietly with their families, though in some places there are festivities with fireworks.

Easter traditions around the world can vary dramatically and be celebrated either with a deep religious meaning or just a family feast, providing time to relax. Working effectively across cultures requires an awareness of how this holiday is celebrated differently across cultures.  Respecting these differences and showing understanding will help you to avoid misunderstandings and frustrations with your international counterparts and build more effective long-term relationships.

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