The five best destinations for Easter fun
Half term ideas – across Europe and beyond – that egg-cel at Easter entertainment
With Easter falling later this year, half term presents far more potential than simply racking up chocolate egg wrappers. It’s a cracking time to get away and be entertained, with world-renowned street processions, epic firework shows, unique local traditions and, of course, plenty to satisfy that sweet tooth…
Spring is a sweet time to visit Sicily, not least for the agnelli pasquali – hand-painted marzipan lambs filled with pistachio, which are the Italian island’s extremely cute take on an Easter treat. In late April, temperatures hit an almost swimmable 18°C, wildflowers burst through and, for the entire week before Easter, life erupts into ancient and eye-grabbing celebrations. The most dramatic is the Procession of the Mysteries in Trapani, 90 minutes from Palermo. On Good Friday, enormous sculptures are carried on shoulders for 24 hours to re-enact the end of Christ’s life. In Enna, a torchlit procession of 2,500 hooded figures is followed by a stream of visitors. While on Easter Sunday, Prizzi, a town in Palermo, hosts the Dance of the Devils – a scary-sounding but very fun tradition, where ‘death’ (a person dressed in yellow) and two ‘devils’ (wearing red) pretend to lock up spectators and take their souls to hell. Good luck explaining that one on your postcards home.
If you like your hot cross buns served on a sun-lounger with a side of tropical sand, bookmark Bermuda – such is the perk of finding a British Overseas Territory with completely un-British weather. Those buns are a big deal in Bermuda – superstition once had it that if you didn’t eat one on Good Friday, your house would burn down, so they’re well worth sacrificing your waistline for. But Bermuda’s star Easter attraction happens in the air, not the oven. On Good Friday, everyone flocks to the beach to fly bright hexagonal or octagonal kites – which kids can make or buy – to symbolise the ascension of Christ. Some kites are huge and require a team to get them airborne. Others buzz via a special hummer made from paper. Where to watch it all? Horseshoe Bay is regularly named one of the world’s best beaches, or there’s Shelly Bay for calm, shallow water and a huge playground.
Swedes may be stereotyped for their understatement, but this does not apply at Easter – particularly the volume of pick ’n’ mix sweets that are stuffed into decorative paper or plastic eggs, and then shoved into tingly tongued mouths. Swedish Easter mixes elements of Christian, folkloric and Old Norse traditions, the quirkiest being the Easter witch or påskkärring. Similar to Halloween, on the Thursday or Saturday, children dress up and door-knock to exchange a homemade Easter card for, you guessed it, more sweets. Girls wear headscarves, mismatched dresses and paint on red cheeks and freckles, while boys don a black suit, fake moustache and top hat. You’ll also find great family craft activities: boiled eggs are painted with watercolours or pens for table centrepieces, while branches of birch – the Easter equivalent of a Christmas tree – are decorated with feathers and baubles. Look out for bonfires on Saturday night, and a cola-like soft drink called påskmust that’s only sold at Easter.
With Catholic Easter falling late in 2022, there is, unusually, only one week’s difference between it and Greek Orthodox Easter on 24 April. Corfiots call Easter Lambri, meaning brightness, and it’s a celebration that even outshines Christmas for many. It’s truly a spectacle for the senses, with live orchestras and vibrant colours, such as purple hanging lanterns and eggs that children paint red (to symbolise rebirth). Easter Saturday wins the ‘Erm, what just happened?’ moment, though. Spianada Square in Corfu Town hosts Botides – a wild custom where giant clay pots of water are thrown from balconies. No one’s exactly sure why. Some say the ancient Greeks threw out old pots in spring to plant seeds in new ones. Others believe the crashing sound echoes the resurrection of Christ or scares away evil spirits. Either way, taking home a piece of smashed pot is considered a good-luck charm. At midnight, there’s a huge fireworks display, plus treats of fogatsa (a sweet brioche) and mandolato (almond nougat).
Southern Spain is always an excellent idea in April, offering soul-quenching top-ups of vitamin D and vitamin sea before the full scorch of summer takes hold. Holy Week (Semana Santa) remains deeply religious, but the Spanish know how to throw a spectacle with clout and the processions draw a global crowd. Easter is Seville’s main festival and it’s world-renowned: there are more than 50 enormous street parades, where religious brotherhoods dress in silk robes and tall, slightly eerie conical hats, and people carry wooden stages (known as pasos) with statues of the Passion of Christ. It is intense and chaotic and truly large scale, interspersed with flamenco performances that cement this theatrical, artistic and emotional celebration in your mind. Smaller children might prefer the quieter festivities found in smaller Andalusian towns, but everyone will lap up torrijas (a Spanish version of French toast) and buñuelos de viento (cream puffs).
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