Top Ten Places to Celebrate Easter

Easter is just around the corner, and while some may contemplate quiet time at home, and some are already packing bags to jet off to exotic climes, have you ever considered jetting off to these locations where the locals remember the reason behind the season in major style and take to the streets in parades and processions with centuries-old traditions? Both for the religious and the adventurous, these Easter celebrations are worth checking out.


Antigua, Guatemala



True, Easter celebrations are generally a big deal for the Christian world, but it doesn’t get bigger than Antigua where, during Semana Santa celebrations, the streets are covered in breathtakingly elaborate alfombras (carpets) of coloured sawdust and flower petals over which robed men carry heavy statues of Christ, as penance for their year’s transgressions, whilst children wave incense through the streets.


Seville, Spain

In Seville the Semana Santa celebrations are similar, only more spectacular. In a tradition dating back to the 14th century, for eight days from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, floats with large, richly bedecked images and life-size tableaux of scenes from the Easter story are carried from Seville’s churches, following the shortest route through the streets to the cathedral.

santa semana

Taking place at midnight on Maundy Thursday ushering in Good Friday is the most important of Seville’s Semana Santa processions, with more than one million people lining the streets of the carrera oficial, watching as Seville’s six oldest and most respected brotherhoods – El Silencio, Jesús del Gran Poder, La Macarena, El Calvario, Esperanza de Triana and Los Gitanos – parade through the streets in a sombre procession that extends past dawn.


Jerusalem, Israel

For most, it doesn’t get better than Holy Week in the Holy Land. As the period of Lent draws to a close, and both the local Christians and thousands of pilgrims come to the Holy City ready to celebrate Holy Week and its culmination on Easter Sunday.

Holy Week officially begins with the celebration of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday with morning mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the traditional palm procession in the afternoon.

easter in jerusalem


On Holy Thursday, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper is celebrated at the Holy Sepulchre, and in the afternoon, the Franciscans make their traditional peregrination to Mount Zion, while in the evening, a meditative Holy Hour in the Garden of Gethsemane, followed by a candlelight is followed by a procession to the church of St. Peter in Gallicantu.

On Good Friday, the Lord’s Passion and crucifixion will be remembered at Calvary, followed by the Stations of the Cross on the Via Dolorosa with the Christ’s funeral celebrated at the Sepulchre.

The Easter Vigil, the climax of the week, is held on Saturday morning, and Oon Easter Sunday, Mass is celebrated with a procession around Jesus’ tomb.

The celebrations end on Easter Monday with the celebration of Mass at the Holy Sepulchre.


Leonidio, Greece

One of the top places to experience Easter has to be Greece, in particular Leonidio.  Here the night of the Resurrection (Holy Saturday) sees a tradition started in the late 19th century by local sailors who had brought this practice from Asian countries and later combined with Easter celebrations.

leonidio greece easter

The town’s five parishes release hundreds of colourful hot-air ballons, handmade by the residents colourful reed paper, into the sky when the first “Christ is risen” is said, along with fireworks. It is not all prayerful celebration though, as competition between the different parishes is tough to who can keep up in the air as many balloons as possible for the longest period of time.

Another Easter custom sees the effigy of Judus burned on dry twigs, also on Holy Saturday.  On Easter Sunday there is music and dancing at the main square as people release hot air balloons into the air.


Rome, Italy

Truly at home with its strong Christian heritage, Rome can do piety and indulgence in equal measure at Easter.

On Good Friday, the Pope retraces Christ’s Via Crucis in a moving candlelit procession, ending in a huge open-air Mass on St Peter’s Square on Easter Sunday. Thousands of pilgrims join the procession, while in many churches there are classical music concerts.

easter in rome

A more commercial and worldly Roman celebration comes with Easter eggs stuffed with tiny silver picture frames, toys or costume jewellery. As for more luxury gifts, it is not unheard of for Romans to instruct their favourite chocolatiers to encase fancy gifts in Easter eggs, from engagement rings to car keys.


São Bras de Alportel, Portugal

While many Easter ceremonies used to take place in Algarve towns in the 18th and 19th centuries, the tradition is now alive only in the small town of São Bras de Alportel which draws visitors from all over the world every Easter.

Men here hold torches and run through the streets celebrating the resurrection of Christ, shouting “Christ is Risen” with the town folk responding with a resounding "Hallelujah". At the parish church, flowers are carefully laid out for the priest to walk over.

São Bras de Alportel, Portugal

The origins of this tradition are anything but religious: Legend has it that the procession and flower laying were merely victory celebrations after the villagers of defended the town and sent the 16th century invaders back to their ships. A mass was then held in the Igreja de Matriz to give thanks for the victory – thought to underlie the present day Easter celebrations which begin and end at the very same church.



How can Jamaica not be on the list when we are talking grand festivals? Although perhaps in true island spirit, the festivities here are more of the indulgent than the sombre kind. Jamaica Easter Carnival, Jamaica's biggest cultural celebration, which started in 1990 kicks off on Easter Sunday with Beach Jouvert – a parade that starts at daybreak and ending with a colourful “Road March”, a costumed street parade where top local and regional bands play calypso and reggae. There are also socha parties and a children’s parade.

jamaica easter


The whole island is in on the Easter celebrations though, with parades in Ocho Rios, Montego Bay and Negril. And easter in Jamaica wouldn’t be complete without another Jamaican Easter tradition: eating cinnamon and raison buns together with cheese.

New York, USA

New York and Easter ­– who would have thought? But the Easter Parade dating back to 1870, which takes place along the 5th Avenue means Easter becomes one big street party in this metropolis. The only condition to participate is to don an Easter bonnet which means participants sport all sorts of bonnets of all colours and shapes, and decorated paper birds, flowers and Easter eggs bunnies, often also accessoricised with equally colourful and lavishly decorated Easter baskets. Pets also join in with their owners sporting their own outlandish bonnets.

easter new york parade


No bonnet? No fear. Everyone is allowed to watch. And after the parade, you can take a stroll to Central Park and participate in the Easter Extravaganza with lots of fun and games for children of all ages.


San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

If you’re after a dramatic Easter celebration, make this Mexican town your next destination. In San Miguel de Allende the Holy Week celebrations begin two Sundays before Easter, when a a statue of a bleeding Jesus is carried ca. 6 kilometres from the town of Atotonilco amidst fireworks and carpets of flowers and then moved from church to church around the town in the following two weeks.

san miguel de allende mexico

In the century-old tradition, on Good Friday, every church in town organises a procession, where a real-life Jesus figure drags his Cross, flanked by Roman centurions and followed by the mourning Mary Magdalen and the saints.

On Easter Sunday is the Firing of the Judases where huge papier-maché figures of hated politicians, devilish historical figures and the betrayer of Jesus himself, Judas Iscariot, are blown up with firecrackers. The statue is then returned to his resting place in Atotonilco with one last parade on the Wednesday after Easter Sunday.


Florence, Italy

In Florence you can experience the long-standing tradition of Scoppio del Carro, dating back to back to the 11th century. Scoppio del Carro, which means ‘the explosion of the cart’, sees a team of beautifully decorated white oxen drag a thirty-foot antique cart (over 500 years old) through the streets of Florence on Easter morning by.

florence easter

The cart is loaded with fireworks at Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore while a wire, stretching to the high altar inside the cathedral, is fitted with a mechanical dove. During Easter Mass, the fuse in the dove is lit, which ignites the cart and sets off a spectacular explosion. According to popular legend, if all goes well and the cart explodes it will mean a very prosperous year for the people of Florence.

Any Easter celebrations we have left out? Do drop us a line and tell us all about them.