According to my local supermarket, the season of chocolate eggs and hot-crossed buns began not long after Boxing Day. In reality, this year’s Easter fortnight runs from April 18 to May 2.
Savvy sunshine.co.uk customers, just like the supermarkets, have been planning ahead for the Easter hols. You’ve been searching for and booking Easter getaways to sunnier climes with the enthusiasm of frisky new-born lambs skipping across a laptop.
It’s not surprising. Thanks to the Royal Wedding on April 29, holidaymakers in England and Wales have a total of four bank holidays to take advantage of this Easter. That’s one less day of precious annual leave to use up.
For you well-prepared people out there, who have snapped up a room in a Mediterranean beach resort, here’s just a flavour of the Easter traditions you might come across during your holiday.
As a Catholic country, Spain celebrates Easter with gusto. Travellers who touch down in the run up to Easter Sunday will arrive in time to experience the traditional events of Holy Week (or Semana Santa in Spanish). Easter is more important in the religious calendar than Christmas, so you’re more than likely to find a Holy Week fiesta streaming through a town or village within reach of your resort.
Early birds who arrive in Spain in time for April 17 should journey inland to Elche (9m/14km from Alicante, 18m/29km from Torrevieja). The city’s Palm Sunday (Domingo de Ramos) procession is well-known for the creative palm-leaf sculptures that are carried and displayed. Elche itself is a charming Moorish city, famous for its grove of 200,000 palm trees. It was crowned a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000.
Or, you could spend a day of your holiday on the Costa del Sol experiencing the street parades and parties in Malaga. Watching the procession of the penitents during Holy Week is captivating. The sorrowful penitents (or nazarenos), dressed in white or purple robes and pointed hats, cover their faces as they shuffle slowly through the streets carrying candles.
And as a change to tucking into the usual creme eggs and chocolate rabbits, why not try some torrijas: a seasonal Spanish version of eggy bread topped with honey, sugar and cinnamon.
Also make a note of the name Sao Bras de Alportel, where a celebratory chorus of ‘hallelujah’ reverberates around the streets at sunrise on Easter Sunday. This cute little countryside town, half an hour from the Faro in the east of the east of the Algarve, celebrates Easter with a procession of Flower Torches. Local people also lay a mosaic of flower petals on the ground outside its church and half a mile around the town.
There’s always fun to be had across Greece, where the run up to Easter Sunday is called Great Week (Megali Evdomada).
On the island of Crete for example, it is traditional to greet the arrival of Orthodox Easter Sunday (April 24) with bonfires and a flurry of midnight fireworks. Church-goers leave their Easter mass holding candles, then as midnight strikes they exchange kisses and watch the pyrotechnic show. Particularly lively celebrations are held in the resorts of Hersonissos and Agios Nikolaos.
Meanwhile on volcanic Santorini, islanders cover huge wooden crosses with lavender and attend midnight mass at the church in the ancient village of Pyrgos. Fireworks fill the night sky and an effigy of Judas is burnt, signifying that the feast day has arrived. Pride of place at the traditional Easter feast in Greece is reserved for a whole lamb, roasted over a charcoal spit.
Kozunak is a celebratory bread, baked in Bulgaria to celebrate special occasionas including Orthodox Easter. Doughy and sweetened with raisins and lemon zest, it is baked in round, braided and loaf shapes, and is wonderful washed down with strong short cups of coffee.
Posted : Wednesday, March 30th, 2011 at 11:53
Kelly Pipes is a writer and editor who has worked in travel and travel publishing for the last ten years, and has enjoyed every single minute of it. Alongside other projects she shares off-beat travel news and authentic travel experiences on her own blog, Sandwagon.