In 2020, Easter will have to look a little different around the world. However, in normal years, if you are stationed OCONUS, you get to take part in different traditions from the country you are stationed in.
Here are some of the ways military families will celebrate Easter around the world:
Easter is an important holiday in England, just like in the United States. Many families enjoy a lunch of lamb and spring vegetables with potatoes and a fresh mint sauce gravy. There will be parades and Easter egg hunts for the children. Egg rolling is a fun game where you roll your egg down the hill and see whose egg can go the farthest without breaking. The Easter Bunny will leave chocolate for children that have been good. Hot cross buns are also popular as they got their start in England and are served on Good Friday.
In Italy, you will find Easter mass at every church. The biggest will be at Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City and is worth visiting if you’re able. Easter lunch is usually lamb or goat with artichokes and special Easter bread. Easter Monday is also a holiday called La Pasquetta. This is when people pack a picnic and drive out to the countryside to enjoy the spring weather. There will be games and special events in the cities on that day, too.
Easter marks the beginning of spring in Germany. This is a big deal in a country that has been cold and dark for the last few months. Boiling and painting eggs are very much a part of the German Easter culture. You can find egg trees in town squares, and twigs and branches with eggs are found in people’s homes. Good Friday and Easter Monday are also holidays, so don’t be surprised to find all stores closed for several days around the holiday. Children will go hunting for Easter eggs and find chocolate and small gifts in their Easter baskets on Easter morning. The night of Easter Sunday, Germans will light big bonfires across the country to welcome the sun and the spring. The wood comes mostly from old Christmas trees that people have saved just for this tradition.
Holy week in Spain is called Semana Santa and the week is filled with age-old traditions that are unique to each region. Andalusia, in southern Spain, has the most elaborate and spectacular celebrations. In Seville, the streets are filled with parades and elaborate religious displays that depict biblical scenes. Eaten throughout Easter week, torrijas are a favorite for those in Spain. They are similar to French toast and are fried in olive oil.
Although Turkey is a majority Muslim country, there are some Easter celebrations within the country, particularly in Istanbul. You can find mass in various languages throughout the city. Some of the hotels offer a lavish buffet for Easter Sunday brunch, and you might be able to find a few Easter egg hunts for the kids. Bakeries in the area will have sweet bread and eggs during this time of year. Many of the Easter traditions in Turkey come from the variety of people from different nationalities who now call Turkey home.
Easter is called Pascha and is the most important holiday of the Orthodox Church in Greece. As soon as the clock turns to Easter Sunday, the people of Greece say, “Christos Anesti” (Christ is risen) or “Alithos Anesti” (He is truly risen). The night before Easter there are candle-lighting services throughout the country. The Easter morning meal is the first time in 50 days that the Orthodox Christians get to eat what they want because of the fasting during Lent. A common dish is magiritsa, which is a traditional soup made from the organs of lamb. You will also find red Easter eggs in Greece as they signify the blood of Christ. When they are opened, they symbolize the resurrection.