There are a myriad of ways to enjoy Easter however, none are as unique as what you’ll find here.
For even though the norm is tales of generous bunnies and egg hunts, there are parts of the world who prefer to blow up carts and drop pots and pans from balconies. We’re sure you’ve seen your fair share of the former so make yourself comfortable and get ready to find out about some new ways to celebrate this holiday.
Florence: The Scoppio del Carro
Ever considered exploding carts for Easter celebrations? If you’re a Florentine, you wouldn’t settle for anything else. The Scoppio del Carro (literally the explosion of the cart) is an ancient tradition with origins in the First Crusades.
Legend has it, that a young Florentine Commander from the Pazzi family was the first to hoist the Christian banner on the walls of Jerusalem. The reward for his hard toil, were three chips of stone from the Holy Sepulcher of Christ. Long under the care of the Pazzi family, these three stones have kindled the fires of noble houses, the Paschal candle and the lamps of the church, on Holy Saturday for centuries.
The holy relics are now in the care of the church of Saint Apostoli and the tradition of lighting the fires on Easter has now evolved across the centuries to include an ornate cart filled to the brim with fireworks and powder.
The 500 year old cart is 30 ft tall and hauled by white oxen from the Porta al Prato to the Piazza del Duomo in a procession involving 150 soldiers, musicians and revelers in period clothing. A long fuse stretches to one of the altars in the Duomo which the Archbishop lights up at the Easter Mass after singing Gloria in excelsis Deo. The result is a 20 minutes display that has had Florentines and tourists captivated for centuries and is well worth your time. For the best seats in the house, look no further than these hotels.
Seville Spain: Semana Santa
We wouldn’t describe Spain’s Holy Week as joyous. Try mesmerizing, hypnotizing and reflective and you’ll no doubt be closer to the mark, but even if the country has a more somber tone during the Semana Santa, visiting it during this period is an experience worth living if you have the chance.
All inclinations to fiesta are shelved for one week as the country’s major cities go into mourning and repent for the sins committed throughout the year. This powerful and emotional moment is symbolized by the Nazarenos, eerie figures, shrouded from head to toe in pointy caps and long capes who walk the streets (sometimes barefoot or in shackles) as penance.
The number of Nazarenos in a procession easily reaches the thousands and the streets are filled with shrouded figures carrying statues and artwork depicting the stations of the cross. Amid the thumping of the drums, the lamp lit streets and the plaintive sounds of the procession music, it’s easy to believe that this mystical figures are more than mere men… until the side of an Adidas or Nike logo pops out from under the fold of their robe that is.
The Holy Week processions take place all over Spain but sunny Seville gets our vote for the most spectacular and slightly more joyous version. Ideal if you don’t mind the touristic undertone. For those who want a more spiritual experience we hear that the quieter cities such as Zamora and Leon are the best. If you want to live this unique experience, you might as well get one of the best seats in the house. These hotels are exactly where you want to be if you want central location and a top notch luxury experience and are without doubt the best in the country.
New York: Easter Parade
Believe it or not but this quirky event has been going on for over a century now and though it’s not the most organised or grandiose of NYC events, it’s still regularly draws crowds from around the city and the world.
The Parade’s origins cannot be separated from fashion as after Easter Mass, the city’s well to do would parade down Fifth Avenue and show off their new Spring clothing while the rest of the city watched from the sidewalk and picked up fashion trends. Nowadays, everyone can join and though the event is not as popular as it once was (one million attendance rate in 1950!), it’s still a major event on New York’s cultural calendar. But If you want to participate, you better look the part.
The New York Easter Parade is what a fashion show would look like in the universe of Alice in Wonderland. It’s an event where fantasy now has the upper hand over established fashion and though you’ll see a few people dressed to impress, it’s more about having a great time and showing just how offbeat and creative you can be with your clothing than setting any trends (God forbid). An elaborate bonnet or hat is practically compulsory for paraders, but if you’re content observing this New York tradition from afar, a nice viewing spot and venue for Easter mass is the St Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue or alternatively there’s always your hotel room.
Greece: Beware of firecrackers and earthenware pots
Heads up! If you’re celebrating Easter in Greece, or more specifically, on the island of Corfu, stay away from storied buildings. On this Meditteranean island, locals start Easter Saturday by throwing pots onto the pavement in the hope of chasing away evil spirits with the loud noises (we presume they do their best to avoid the gawking tourists who come to witness the event).
Another spectacular event to witness is the Rouketopolemos, where two churches fire an impressive amount of firecrackers at each other in the hope of hitting their opponent’s bell tower. Yes it’s every bit as fun to watch as it sounds. The ongoing feud between rival churches reaches back to the Ottoman empire and after all these years, there’s never been a victor. Each Parish claims victory over the other every Easter and agrees to settle the score next year, at the same date. All the better for us.