Easter in Europe

While the traditional Christian holiday of Easter remembers Jesus and his resurrection, there are many fascinating cultural variations across Europe, some of which date back centuries.


Easter bells not Easter Bunny
Traditionally, from Good Friday to Easter Sunday, church bells across France are silenced to mark the death of Christ. Legend has it that the bells fly to Rome where they are blessed by the Pope before making their return journey. On their way home they pick up eggs to scatter in the gardens below, for the children to hunt for on Easter Sunday.
Around this time, you’ll notice shop windows blossom into vibrant masterpieces of confectionary as chocolatiers celebrate the holiday with intricate chocolate bell and egg designs, tied up in beautiful bows as an homage to the story.
Try stunning gourmet French chocolate on our South of France and Tastes of Southern France river cruise itineraries. As part of an exclusive Scenic Enrich experience, you’ll be invited to visit the Valrhona Cité du Chocolat museum in the small village of Tain L’Hermitage. Once the doors have closed to the public, you’ll attend a private workshop to learn how some of the finest chocolate in the world is made, before tasting it for yourself.


Food & fire
On the night of Easter Sunday, as part of an ancient Germanic rite, large bonfires are lit to symbolise the end of lent and the beginning of spring. It is believed that everything the fire touches will be safe from harm. Old Christmas trees are even saved and used as firewood. Families and friends gather for big celebrations with food and drink, often lasting well into the night and finishing at a local pub. In some regions, you might even catch the Easter Wheel Run, or Osterräderlauf. A truly remarkable thing to witness, hay is packed into a wooden wheel and set alight, before being rolled down a hill. If it makes it all the way to the bottom, it is supposed to encourage a good harvest.
On Easter Sunday, children will hunt for eggs hidden by the Osterhase, or Easter Bunny, and the family will enjoy a big brunch of breads, pastries and jams, including a Hefezopf braided loaf and a Osterkranz Easter wreath which is stuffed with fruit and nuts. And, for some, it is tradition to have a lamb-shaped cake as the centrepiece of the dining table, decorated with chocolate and icing sugar, to represent life, peace and purity.
Explore Germany in depth on our Jewels of Europe, Romantic Rhine & Moselle, Gems of the Danube and Rhine Highlights itineraries.
And in 2022, our Jewels of Europe, Romantic Rhine & Moselle and Gems of the Danube itineraries will include a very special excursion to the beautiful Alpine town of Oberammergau as it hosts its once-a-decade passion play depicting the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ. Over 2,000 residents, consisting of actors, a full choir and orchestra will take to the open-air stage for the 42nd time, in front of 5,000 spectators.

Czech Republic

Six days of celebration
In the Czech Republic, Easter lasts for almost a week and runs in a slightly different order than is tradition. Ugly Wednesday refers to when Judas betrayed Jesus and is the day children finish school to prepare their crafts in time for the holiday. On Green Thursday, in honour of the Last Supper, no meat is consumed, green vegetables are encouraged, and people celebrate with zelene pivo, or green beer. Good Friday is a national holiday to commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus, before his resurrection is marked by young boys walking the streets shaking wooden rattles for money on White Saturday.
Discover the Czech city of Český Krumlov on a Scenic Freechoice excursion as part of our Gems of the Danube itinerary. Or, enjoy two full days in the Czech capital on our Gems of the Danube itinerary with Prague extension.