In this heavily Catholic country, the celebrations are not over in a day, Holy Week offers a number of celebrations leading up to Easter Sunday. In the village of Mompox (the inspiration behind the novels of Gabriel Garcia Marquez) residents dress smart and congregate in the cemetery to celebrate. Candles and flowers are placed upon graves and music follows the celebrations throughout the night.
In the capital Bogota, almost every public building (outside religious institutions) shuts down. Residents make a pilgrimage to seven monuments or churches to recall the pilgrimage of Christ during his crucifixion.
A fusion of folk traditions and Christian sentiment, the Easter season is mainly celebrated on Easter Sunday and Monday. Lamb is a popular meal of choice alongside more traditional Easter foods (hot cross buns, eggs, bread and wine).
The folk tradition of Velikonoce takes place on Easter Monday and involves individuals being whipped with an item called a pomlázka – as a reward for the moments of pain, girls give boys decorated Easter eggs (kraslice), as others believe that women supposedly gain a year of health, fertility and beauty.
Holy Week provides spiritual and communal restbite from the strains of daily life. For example, in Corfu, Good Wednesday you would hear ecclesiastical hymns of the Passion Week. On Easter Sunday, residents in Corfu gather in church prior to midnight holding white candles, which are lit with the ‘Holy Light’. The celebrations begin with drums and fireworks. People say the phrase “Christós Anésti” to one another. The response is “Alithós Anésti” (He has truly risen).
In other parts of Greece, shop windows are full of brightly-coloured wrappings for Easter candles and eggs. Lamb (or goat) is a popular and traditional meal on Easter Sunday.
Iraq’s Christian community has declined since the Iraq War in 2003. But the emergence of the terrorist group ISIS has forced thousands to flee their homes and seek refuge in the neighbouring Kurdish region.
In an act of love and solidarity, Pope Francis is sending his personal envoy to Iraq to deliver to refugee families traditional Italian Colombia cakes. Other gifts include financial support to the Christian refugees in the region. Last year, the figure stood at $1m, which was split “75 percent of the money was delivered to Catholics, and the remaining 25 percent to the Yazidi community,” according to Cardinal Filoni.
Holy Week celebrations take various forms across the country. In Alghero (Sardinia), ancient traditions date back to the 16th Century, and celebrations start on a Tuesday with the procession of Sorrowful Mysteries.
In Florence, a tradition that dates back to the First Crusade (1096) is reimagined in the modern context. The belief that fragments Pazzino di Ranieri de’ Pazzi received from the Holy Sepulchre after planting the Holy Cross in Jerusalem were used to started the sacred fire on Easter Sunday in 1101 is re-enacted with fireworks and a dove-shaped rocket holding an olive branch.
Hundreds observe various processions nationwide. Religious statues are carried by fraternities. Perhaps the most famous examples are in Valladolid and Seville. For the former, religious fervour continues uninterrupted since the 16th Century. Solemn processions display various Castilian religious sculptures, where a large number of ‘cofradías’ join together to carry them through the streets.
In Seville, a cavalcade of colour, masked penitents and lavish floats greets thousands during Holy Week. Marching bands accompany the floats, which also display Baroque statues that retell the Easter story.
In spite of the elections, the Federal Government declared Easter Sunday and Monday as public holidays. After all, the religious makeup of Nigeria is a near even split between Christians and Muslims. So come Easter Sunday, it is not uncommon to find colourful celebrations on the streets of certain cities.
Pope Francis has also sent money to individuals displaced by the violence wrought by the terrorist group Boko Haram in northern Nigeria.
Easter penance is important for many Filipino Catholics, some pay their penance by whipping their backs with blades and bamboo sticks. But penance serves a wider function of cleansing the sins, curing illnesses, and wish fulfilment. Participants then walk barefoot, stopping every few hundred yards at makeshift altars to sounds of the locals reciting texts narrating the suffering of Christ. But this type of celebration has drawn criticism from sections of the Catholic community.
Israel – Palestine
No discussion of Easter celebrations is complete without highlight the thousands of pilgrims who enter Jerusalem for Holy Week. Among the many pilgrims are 130,000 Christians who live in Israel. Some 44,000 of those are Roman Catholic while the others belong to the Greek Orthodox or other churches.
Catholic and Orthodox Christians visit the Holy Sepulchre where Christ’s crucifixion has been marked since the fourth century. In the occupied West Bank, there is an estimated 17,000 Palestinian Catholics and 33,000 who self-identify as Greek Orthodox (or other eastern denominations). But entry for Palestinians is not guaranteed and is determined by the issuing of a controversial special permit.
Protestants go to the Sunrise Service held at the Garden Tomb.
The Catholic Church in Gaza celebrates the Holy Week. There is an estimated 3,000 (or more) Christians in this area and around 300 or so Catholics, compared to about 1.4 million Muslims that are living in the Gaza strip.
Whilst in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, Catholics celebrate Easter Sunday in the Church of the Nativity.
It should be noted that Palestinian Catholics and Greek Orthodox Christians typically celebrate Easter a week apart. But in 2014, celebrations coincided alongside the Jewish holiday of Passover.
Lent is equally important for Christians in Lebanon. During Lent and on Good Friday, observers consume a strict vegan diet. For families over Easter, a traditional meal includes Maamoul, small cakes made from semolina, among others.
In Sidon, Muslim and Christian students work together to decorate Easter eggs with floral and creative patterns. Like with other Christian denominations in the region, Protestants and Catholic denominations celebrate Easter Sunday on April 5, while the Eastern Orthodox Church celebrate a week later on April 12.
Trinidad & Tobago
Trinidad and Tobago marks Easter with two public holidays, cultural traditions and a range of food. On a Friday, expect to enjoy fresh fish alongside hams, pork and chicken roasts as the Easter weekend progresses.
One popular tradition that marks Christ’s ascension into heaven is symbolised by the flying of kites shaped by a diamond fabrics and supported by wooden crosses.
Other villages set up a Good Friday Bobolee, an effigy of Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus. The effigy is hung then attacked by worshippers to highlight the punishing nature of his betrayal.