For those of you observing Lent, the long slog of abstinence and reflection that also coincides with the last of the winter chill in the northern hemisphere will soon be over with the chocolate, feasting and springtime blooms of Easter.
In celebration, Cheapflights.com (www.cheapflights.com) has come up with a list of top 10 places to celebrate Easter. Reuters has not endorsed this list:
1. Virtuous in Argentina
Easter Sunday in Argentina consists of consuming and sharing eggs as well as the special Easter cake, Rosca de Pascua. Tradition holds that people exchange eggs not only with their family, but also with friends and colleagues and the day culminates in attending mass followed by a big family gathering involving lots of food. Argentineans tend to celebrate Jesus' resurrection with a huge barbecue and a treasure hunt organized by the local governments in the main cities, so that everyone has a chance to participate.
The Greek Orthodox Church follows the Byzantine calendar, so this year's Orthodox Easter Sunday takes place on April 15. In Athens, Good Friday marks the first main event where a replica of Christ's tomb is carried through town. The most sacred of Easter events takes place the following day when people flock to churches at midnight carrying unlit candles which they light from the Holy Flame and walk through town enjoying a glorious display of fireworks, bells and jubilation. Easter Sunday's menu comprises spit-fire roast lamb and lots of colored eggs. In the Orthodox tradition, you knock eggs with your neighbor attempting to crack theirs to bring yourself good fortune.
Visitors will notice the ornately decorated streets, shops and restaurants filled with all things Easter from bunnies to chocolate, painted eggs and even live baby chicks in some places. Good Friday is marked by mass. Easter Sunday is a huge celebration where absolutely everyone goes to church. After taking communion, the 40-day fast comprising a strictly vegan diet, is broken with a feast featuring lamb and lots of egg breaking. Get your hands on the delicious Easter sweets called Maamoul. These are little cookies made with a mixture of semolina and butter then stuffed with either dates or ground sugared nuts and dusted with icing sugar.
Easter in Scotland is a mostly laid-back event. The Scots do the traditional things commonly associated with Easter like attending mass and having a big meal, but they also add a bit of fun, particularly for the kids. Easter fun here is all about eggs. After they're boiled and painted in all kinds of colors and designs, they're taken to the park hills for rolling on Easter Sunday. While it may just sound like playtime for the kids, the event is very symbolic as it is carried out to represent the rolling away of stones on Jesus' tomb thereby assisting in His resurrection.
5. Seville, Spain
Seville in Andalucia is the most famed Spanish region for Easter celebrations. It has 52 different religious brotherhoods whose members parade through the streets for the entire Holy Week manifesting the crucifixion. Processions continue for almost 24 hours culminating in the jubilation of the resurrection which is observed by floats covered in flowers, dancing in the streets and traditional sweet cakes.
Humor-filled celebrations commence on Easter Saturday with children dressing up as good witches setting the Easter mood by giving out letters and cards in return for eggs, sweets and coins. On Easter Sunday, food takes center stage where, in typically Nordic fashion, the feast comprises mostly fish. Edibles include different kinds of herring, a selection of smoked salmon, a hint of roast ham and various cheeses. Of course, the main attraction are eggs which are exchanged and later used in a game where participants roll them down roofing tiles to see which egg can go the furthest without breaking.
Church bells ring every day of the year except for the three days of Easter. Legend has it that the reason the bells stop ringing is because they've made a trip to Rome in order to be blessed. On Easter Sunday, the bells make their return and tour the entire country sprinkling chocolate eggs, chickens and rabbits as they go in each and every garden. After midday, children head to the gardens to find their hidden treasures left by the blessed bells. The day of events also includes a hearty meal, normally consisting of lamb, which is the Easter dish of choice in France.
Easter Baskets are the main tradition in Germany where each child receives a basket put together by their parents, containing not only eggs and chocolate, but also toys and other gifts. The baskets are hidden in the back garden and the kids have to hunt for it after church on Easter Sunday. This is particularly popular in rural areas where houses tend to have big gardens, sometimes comprising several levels and full of trees and bushes. In more urban areas, families tend to go on an Easter walk and hide their Osternest, which means Easter nest, in the forest or a meadow and the kids go hunting for it during the walk. Alternatively, if the nest doesn't appeal, some families like to hide chocolate eggs along the route of the walk.
9. United States
Apart from dressing up in one's Sunday best and heading off to church on Easter Sunday, Easter in the US is, unsurprisingly, dominated by candy and chocolate. Various popular brands release a special line of sweet treats available only for the Easter period including Easter colored M&Ms, jelly beans, malted milk eggs, Cadbury Mini Eggs, Cadbury Creme Eggs, chocolate bunnies, Reese's eggs, Peeps and Hershey's miniatures with Easter colored wrappers. Those headed to Washington, DC can enjoy one other very famous tradition where the White House opens its lawn to kids for some Easter egg rolling. This tradition was first carried out in 1878 and has continued ever since. Other attractions on the day include a visit with the Easter Bunny and an afternoon of storytelling.
Food, festivals and fun in general are the things that make up Canadian Easter celebrations. Those who are religious may attend church, but even those who aren't partake in the festivities, which include putting on Easter plays, special songs, holding spring festivals and even winter festivals to signify the start of Lent and decorate with Easter lilies and the famous bunnies. A good meal is also enjoyed with the Easter menu featuring things like apple tart, Maple Baked Beans and Cape Breton Scones. Uniquely, Canada is also home to the world's largest pysanka (Ukrainian Easter egg) located in Vegreville, Alberta. The egg was constructed in 1975 in honor of the Ukrainian settlements in Edmonton. The egg is a symbol of life, prosperity, eternity and good fortune and is recognized the world over as an architectural masterpiece.