Easter becomes colourful in many European countries with lovingly decorated eggs. Credit: Shutterstock

Easter Traditions And Recipes

Experience European rituals at home this Easter holiday

by Lisa Hübener

As the days get longer and the first rays of sun warm your skin, it’s time to chase away the winter blues. It’s time to plan that long Easter weekend away right now. Get in the mood with these European Easter traditions and treats (with recipes below)! Start on Maundy Thursday and work your way through Easter Monday, just like we did!

While Easter is a holy day for Christians, many European Easter traditions pre-date Christianity (the word Easter comes from Eostre, who was the goddess of fertility and spring among Anglo-Saxon pagans).

In Sweden, children dress up as Påskkärring—an Easter witch who, according to Swedish tradition, flies to Blåkulla (a fictional island where the devil reigns supreme) on her broom on Maundy Thursday—with red cheeks and colourful scarves on their heads. They roam through the streets and exchange handmade items for small gifts or sweets.  


Easter marks the end of Lent, which is traditionally a time to abstain from red meat and other vices. So how about a delicious oven-baked fish dish on Good Friday, as is the practice in Germany? Instead of dessert, follow your meal with a round of bingo—a quirky tradition from Iceland that originally started as a rebellious act by atheists.

In many European countries, the egg (a pagan symbol of fertility) plays a central role at Easter. In some regions of Germany, people try to lob eggs over the roofs of their homes—this is supposed to protect against lightning and fire. But remember, if you make a mess, you have to clean it up afterwards.


The British, on the other hand, have fun with rolling eggs—a custom that has even made its way across the pond to America. Multi-colored, hand-painted eggs are pushed down the nearest hill and the fastest one wins. Fresh-from-the-oven hot cross buns are a tasty treat enjoyed at the end of a day of rolling around the hills. 

In many European countries such as Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Great Britain, colorfully decorated Easter eggs (the real ones or ones made of chocolate) are hidden in elaborately decorated Easter baskets by the Easter bunny—another symbol of fertility. This turns the sunny Easter walk into a fun scavenger hunt for young and old. 

If the weather doesn’t cooperate, do as the Norwegians do and cosy up with a påskekrim (crime movie) and fresh oranges. The tangy citrus fruit symbolizes the upcoming summer while the movie, well, we don’t know why the Norwegians love their thrillers but they do! Our pick: Jo Nesbø’s Headhunters (2011).

Easter Monday is a special day in Italy, with families getting together to enjoy a pasquetta (Easter picnic). A bit of fresh air, sun and a delicious torta di pasquetta are exactly the thing to end your mini-break. Cheers!  



Easter recipes

Oven-baked Fish (Germany)

  • 1 lb cod or sea bass fillet
  • 1 zucchini
  • 4 potatoes
  • 15 cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 3.5 ounces black olives
  • 4 shallots
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 sprigs oregano
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 3.5 ounces vegetable stock
  • 3.5 ounces fish stock

Slice the vegetables, quarter the tomatoes and cut the shallots into thin wedges. Finely chop the garlic and sprinkle the fish fillet with lemon juice. Pour olive oil and garlic into a baking dish. Layer zucchini, potatoes and shallots and place fish, cherry tomatoes, olives and capers on top. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle oregano and rosemary needles on top, then pour the stock. Cook in a preheated oven at 356°F for about 30-40 minutes and sprinkle with fresh parsley to serve.

Hot Cross Buns (United Kingdom)

  • 1 lb flour
  • 3 ounces sugar
  • 1 packet dry yeast
  • 1.5 cups whole milk
  • 3.5 ounces butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 3 ounces raisins or other dried fruit
  • 3 ounces flour
  • 5-6 tablespoons of water

Heat the milk and melt the butter in it. Mix flour, sugar, yeast, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon. Make a dent in the dough, add the egg and the lukewarm milk. Knead vigorously, form it into a ball and let it rest for an hour. Then divide the dough into 12 pieces, include the raisins, let it rest again. Place the dough balls on a baking sheet, spacing them slightly, and decorate them with a paste of flour and water in a criss-cross pattern. Bake in a preheated oven at 392°F for about 20 min until golden brown.

Torta di Pasquetta (Italy)

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 8 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups spinach leaves
  • 2 cups ricotta
  • 9 eggs
  • 3.5 ounces hard cheese
  • 1 pinch of marjoram
  • 1 pinch of salt

Knead flour, salt, oil and water until a dough is formed. Divide it into twelve pieces. Dust with flour and let it rest for an hour. Wash the spinach and boil it for a few minutes, then chop finely. Beat three eggs together and mix it with spinach, ricotta, marjoram, salt and pepper. Roll out eight of the dough pieces thinly and use them to line the bottom and sides of a greased baking dish. Brush each piece with oil. Place the filling on the dough. Using a spoon, make six indentations and carefully crack an egg into each, leaving the yolk whole. Season and sprinkle with hard cheese. Roll out the remaining dough, place it on the filling and brush with oil. Bake in the oven at 392°F for about an hour. Serve cold.