The best five places for a spectacular Easter
For billions of people around the world Easter is a time of great celebration. Shaped by local communities and traditions, many festivities are unique. Whether you’re religious or not, we’ve gathered together some of our favourite celebrations that are sure to make a lasting impression on you.
The Vatican City – Rome, Italy
Rome’s Easter celebrations are extravagant. The Eternal City, the heart of the Catholic Church, welcomes pilgrims and crowds of people wanting to celebrate over the Easter weekend. This and the traffic (chaotic at the best of times), as well as the fact that many attractions and businesses are closed, might make a visit to Rome at this time of year an unappealing prospect for all but the most devout of pilgrims. But if you’re willing to accept this, you will discover some real delights. On Good Friday, the Pope leads a moving candlelit procession of the Stations of the Cross, beginning at the Colosseum and ending on Palatine Hill. And on Easter Sunday the Pope’s open-air mass is an awe-inspiring sight because of the thousands of worshippers who attend. Festivities occur across the city, as Romans and visitors alike celebrate and exchange gifts. Romans are fond of placing gifts in their chocolate eggs (which local chocolatiers can prepare for you), with the wealthiest citizens giving jewellery or even car keys to their loved ones. So, if you have an important present you want to give that someone special, this could be a novel way to do so.
For a guide to the best hotels in Rome? Find them here:
The vast majority of Christians in Greece follow the Orthodox faith, meaning that Easter usually falls a few weeks later than the Catholic and Protestant Easter. Traditions date from the earliest days of Christianity, and entire communities, villages and towns come together to rejoice. As one of the most beautiful Greek Islands, Santorini is a particularly gorgeous place to be in the week before Easter. Locals whitewash their houses, showing off the island’s distinctive architecture to the full, and the rich scent of local delicacies, made for the traditional Easter feast, fill the air. On the Thursday, women gather to boil and dye eggs red – a symbol of the blood and resurrection of Christ. On Good Friday houses are adorned with torches and candles for the procession to the local church. The biggest event occurs at midnight on Saturday, as the entire community gathers to hear the announcement of the resurrection of Christ – fireworks light the sky and people sing and dance to celebrate. Don’t be surprised if you’re invited for mezze and the Easter Sunday feast.
For a wonderfully welcoming place to stay, we recommend Perivolas Hotel.
While most of these traditions and destinations are annual, this one requires a little more planning. Just over an hour’s drive south of Munich is a small village called Oberammergau. Most years the Easter celebrations here are relatively quaint and low-key, compared to the others on this list, but every ten years (on years ending with a zero) it’s a different story. The village becomes the site of one of the most spectacular Easter performances in the world: the Oberammergau Passion Play. Legend has it that in 1634 the village promised to perform a huge-scale re-enactment of the Passion of Christ in exchange for being spared from the horrors of the bubonic plague. As the village survived, the residents continued the tradition with gusto. Most of them are involved in the staging of this spectacle, with more than 2,000 participants, all residents of Oberammergau. Not that this is an amateur affair by any means. Direction, costuming, set design and music are all governed by some of the leading theatre figures from Munich, leading to one of the most amazing pieces of open-air theatre you can see in the world. The next Oberammergau Passion Play will take place in 2020.
Make your base the Mandarin Oriental Munich and combine your stay in the city with a trip to Oberammergau, which is not far by car or rail.
Seville’s Holy Week celebrations rival the grandeur and scale of Rome’s. Thousands of pilgrims flock to the city to see the processions of floats carrying wooden statues (pasos) adorned with gold and silver. Some are huge and weigh over a tonne and require more than 50 people to carry them. They depict important scenes from Christ’s Passion and are the focus for highly ritualised marches through the city. Accompanying these statues are thousands of penitents known as nazarenos, organised into colour-co-ordinated brotherhoods and wearing the traditional garbs of medieval flagellants. Some processions are totally silent (with the air of a funeral), while others are more joyous affairs, accompanied by music, singing and dancing. The processions all convene at Seville Cathedral, one of the largest cathedrals in the world, for an utterly breathtaking display.
Seville during Holy Week can be an exhausting place to stay, so why not make the Marbella Club Golf Resort & Spa in Andalucia your base so you can enjoy the coast too?
Many of the Easter celebrations on this list are intense affairs, involving massive crowds and complex rituals. For a slightly more relaxed Easter, Bermuda offers a tradition that is both delightful and unique to the island: kite-flying. It’s claimed that the tradition began when a school teacher needed a simple visual metaphor to explain Christ’s resurrection to his students, and a kite was deemed to be ideal. The practice caught the imagination of the islanders and now, on Good Friday, it is tradition to construct special Bermuda kites, hexagonal in shape and decorated with bright colours and streamers, to fly throughout Easter weekend. Bermudians gather on the beaches to fly the kites together, and the famous Horseshoe Bay is one of the most popular places. On Easter Sunday the islanders eat traditional foods, some of which are recipes from the days of British rule, such as hot-crossed buns, and some that are unique to the island, such as the delicious codfish cakes.
The Rosewood Bermuda is a fantastic hotel to base yourself for the Easter celebrations.
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