Seven people tell of traditions from Columbia, Italy, Armenia and the French West Indies

The colombian processions last all night and go on for an entire week (Image: Mariane Lacombe Betancur)

Initially published on HullLive.

Easter is right around the corner.

Most people will bet visiting their family, or cooking up a big feast for loved ones.

But, have you ever wondered how the rest of the world celebrates Easter?

Most Easter traditions outside the UK centre around Christ. Each of them represents a different part of Jesus’ life in colourful ways.

From the West Indies to Italy, seven people tell us about the Easter folklore of their country.

Adriana Algarin – Colombia

The altars are moved on man’s back (Image: Mariane Lacombe Betancur)

Adriana flew across the Atlantic to do a PhD at Birmingham University, but still kept the traditions of Colombia close to home.

She said: “The 40-days Easter season starts with Ash Wednesday, when practicing Catholics go to mass to get an ash mark on their foreheads, as a symbol of penitence seeking God’s mercy.

“For those who do not practice religion, it is an opportunity to book holidays from work and go to the beach.

“In my home city of Barranquilla, and nearby towns, several events are held prior and also during the Holy Week.

“Mostly masses welcome short performing acts, such as the feet washing from the Bible.

“On Palm Sunday, people walk towards the church holding palm leaves.

“Other parades take place during the week include people walking next to or behind the saint figures – most depict Jesus or the Virgin Mary.

“Some people ask or pay favours to God by dressing up as people from the Bible, and will take on a special role, like carrying a cross if they portray Jesus.

“One of my sisters actually participated in character because my grandmother made a pledge to God when she was born with health difficulties.

“She dressed up as the good Samaritan and held a jug of water to be shared with fellow penitents.

“When water ran out, people at the houses the parade passed by would refill it.”

“On the extreme side of the tradition, some people even whip themselves as a form of penitence for their sins.

“A lighter and more enjoyable tradition is the preparation of sweets or desserts, mostly jams made of pretty much any fruit or beans available during the season – mango, pineapple, coconut, pigeon beans…

“Growing up, my grandmothers used to make three different types of these sweets that would be shared with visitors or they would be exchanged with neighbours.

“I still feel nostalgic about this whole tradition sometimes, but what I definitely miss is the sweets, they are so yummy!”

Mariane Lacombe Betancur – Colombia

Mariane loved her trip to Popayan

Mariane is a Franco-Colombian journalist who splits her time between France and Medellin, Colombia.

“In Colombia, everybody books holidays – the luckiest ones take the whole week while others get at least Holy Thursday and Holy Friday.

“In Carthagena, the religious side of Easter is minimal, as it is a top holiday destination.

“Other towns such as Popayan and Mompos have deep-rooted religious traditions that are still very much alive to this day.

“I went to Popayan for “Semana Santa” (Holy Week), and each evening there’s a mass and procession, dedicated to a different stage of Jesus’ life.

“While I’m not a very religious person, I went out of curiosity and was surprised by the mystic feeling in the town!

“I also came across a guy preaching the end of the world by citing the Apocalypse book,” the 23-year-old recalls.

“Night falls at 6:30pm, and the town suddenly changes with a solemn atmosphere in the air.

“Wooden statues are carried out from the churches to begin the procession.

An orchestra is playing through the procession at Popayan (Image: Mariane Lacombe Betancur)

“They are carried on men’s back, the men are chosen for their merit and inherit the task from their father.

“The procession starts with women holding incense, making the air foggy and perfumed.

“In the middle, there is an orchestra playing. Everybody remains very silent – you can even hear footsteps and the creaking of the wooden icons as they are put down every 20 meters.

“People hold candles, and the celebration continue until late into the night.”

Kevin Linzau – Martinique (French West Indies)

Kevin was born in Martinique, a French island near the USA.

While he’s spent most of his life in mainland France, Europe, the law student remembers special Easter meals on the beach.

He told us: “Easter in the French West Indies is based on the same Christian holiday than other Catholic countries or regions.

People celebrate Easter on the beach in the island of Martinique

“Most of the French West Indians are more interested in the gastronomical delights of matoutou.

Matoutou is a traditional dish made with crab, rice, potatoes and a lot of spices. It is mainly cooked on beaches with friends and family.

“The dish also has deep roots community from the slave trading era, where slaves were scorned by their masters.

“These masters were most likely forbidding slaves to eat meat on Easter. As a result, slaves chose seafood and crab to replace meat.

“They hid and celebrated Easter in secret, because their masters were cautious of the slaves uniting.

“I personally appreciate the opportunity to celebrate (Easter), but I’d rather stay away from masses and churches.

“But it’s still an important part of the traditional side of Easter, since choirs, dances and gospels are performed to honour it.”

Victoria Oliveres – Catalunya

With strong Catholic roots still embedded in the culture, Spain has several different Easter customs.

Victoria is a journalist living in Barcelona and loving every bit of Catalan folklore.

She said: “On Easter Monday, godparents give their godchildren a special cake called la mona de Pasqua.

“Traditionally, it was filled with as many boiled eggs as the age of the child.

“Nowadays the eggs are replaced with different chocolate figures.

“I really like this time of year, as it’s a time to bond with people inside or outside your family circle – and there’s plenty of food.”

Carmen Aguilar Garcia – Andalucia

Journalist Carmen has left the sunny coasts of Andalucia, Spain to work in London – but still misses the colourful Easter rituals of home.

She explains: “Easter is a time for processions in Andalucia.

“These take place throughout the whole week and while almost every village partakes in this tradition, big towns and cities such as Sevilla, Granada or Malaga, have more than one per day.

“They commemorate the last days of Christ.

“During these processional parades, sculptures representing different scenes of Jesus’ life are taken to the streets.

“They are accompanied by Nazarenes, people dressed in habits and wearing cone-shaped hats.

Penitents from ‘Real Cofradia del Santisimo Cristo de las Injurias’ take part in a procession in Zamora, Spain

“Another group of the processions is the “mantillas” – women dressed in black, wearing traditional scarf on their heads, from which they take their name.

“Both groups carry candles to lit the path.   

“Many of us also travel to visit our families and friends in our home towns.

“This period has a special place in my heart: growing up, I usually visited relatives, ate some of the traditional sweets my grandma and aunt used to cook, and went see some of the processions with my family, before enjoying dinner with friends. “

Marco Guglielmo – Italy

Marco is a 40-year-old PhD student at the University of Birmingham, who goes back to Italy often – and Easter is no exception.

He said: ‘Che facciamo a Pasquetta?’

It means ‘What do we do on Easter Monday?’, or ‘little Easter’.

“It symbolises the time when an angel appeared before the women going to the cave where Jesus was buried to announce his resurrection.”

Marco says that most people plan on heading to the countryside for Easter Sunday, or have a barbecue and drink wine with friends and family – but all of those plans are weather dependent.

He says that families come up with a Plan B in case it rains, and it falls on the person with the biggest house to house the festivities. They also have to have a big garden, just in case the sun comes out.

Catherine Karadjian – Armenia

Catherine is part of a big Armenian family (Image: Catherine Karadjian)

While Catherine is French, she is also a third-generation descendant of the Armenian diaspora.

“Easter is a special moment for Armenians. It is called ‘Medz Zadig’, meaning Big Celebration.

“On that day, we greet each other by saying ‘Christos haryav i merelotz’ – it means Christ has been brought back from the dead, to which one responds ‘Orhnial e Haroutiunn Christosi’ meaning ‘May his resurrection be blessed’.

“Christians usually go to mass and receive a braided palm branch – a symbol of life and protection.

“Families gather for a meal which begins with a game called Havgitakhagh. Red-painted boiled eggs are chosen and each family member must hit the egg of their right-sided neighbour with one egg extremity then hit their left-sided neighbour’s with the other extremity.

“The egg that does not break wins. It is a symbol of life.

“I really love that tradition, painting eggs and playing with all generations. In my family, there is always somebody trying to cheat – plaster or plastic egg, or even an uncooked egg! We’ve seen it all, and it’s very funny.

“We then share a sweet brioche called Tcheureg, which marks the beginning of the Easter feast.

“The story goes that Mary set to bring brioche and an egg to Jesus.

“But when she discovered him crucified, she felt on her knees crying while the items crashed on the ground.

“Christ’s blood then covered the egg red.”

Do you have any specific Easter tradition?

Let us know in the comment!

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