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Celebrating British Easter Traditions

Updated on October 7, 2014
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What British Easter Traditions are Celebrated?

Have you ever wondered what British people do to celebrate Easter?

If you are planning on visiting the UK at Easter there are lots of events planned that will give you a taste of a quintessentially British Easter.

Easter occurs some time between the 22nd of March and the 25th April, which means that it takes place in spring, and the holiday, with it's four day weekend, is a welcome break at the end of a long dark winter.

Top of the list for most people at Easter are chocolate Easter eggs, followed by Hot Cross Buns.

But probably the most important thing for most people is the fact that Easter is the only time when bank holidays are placed either side of a weekend, and people like to take advantage of this long weekend break.

Whether you are visiting Great Britain or are lucky enough to live there, I have included lots of ideas for activities to do over the Easter holidays.


What Makes A British Easter?

So, is a British Easter just about chocolate, buns and a break from work?

Religion still plays an important part of Easter for a percentage of UK families, but not in the way it did generations ago.

Maundy Thursday sees the Queen giving specially minted Maundy money to well deserving people.

Good Friday is often celebrated with walks. As a child we walked from the village church to a nearby hillside monument and this is a tradition that is still enacted today all over the country.

Many families will gather on Easter Sunday and have a family lunch, similar in style to a Christmas lunch, but maybe with roast lamb instead of turkey

Easter Monday will often see markets and fairs and it is the traditional time for holiday venues and National Trust venues to reopen after the winter, and lots of people book holidays around this time or go for day trips.

At Easter people used to wear new outfits and fancy hats. Many children still make Easter Bonnets, and there are Easter bonnet parades that you can visit.

Spring flowers such as daffodils are associated with Easter time and it is also a time when people start to think about their garden, and visiting the local garden centre or do-it-yourself shop is a popular past time.

Source

Shrove Tuesday

Shrove Tuesday, better known as Pancake Day, starts the traditional count down to Easter in the UK, and is celebrated by eating pancakes

Shrove Tuesday is the last day before Lent begins, and traditionally people would make pancakes with their eggs and flour before fasting during Lent.

In twenty first century Britain many people still give something up for Lent, but it is usually something like chocolate or coffee. The tradition of eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday remains very popular, however these days it is popular to buy ready made pancakes or a packet mix.

This recipe is so easy that it is no more difficult than using a packet mix, and so much healthier.

Traditionally, the pancakes would be tossed once one side had cooked, but it is more practical (if a lot less fun) to use a pan slice to turn them over.

*Note* If you have never had an English pancake before, they tend to be bigger and thinner than an American pancake - probably more like a crepe.

  • Prep time: 10 min
  • Cook time: 20 min
  • Ready in: 30 min
  • Yields: 8

Pancake Recipe

  • FOR THE PANCAKE BATTER MIX:
  • 110 g (4oz) of plain flour
  • A pinch of salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 200 ml (7fl oz) milk mixed with 75ml (3 floz) water
  • 50 g (2oz) butter or cooking oil
  • TO SERVE:
  • Sugar
  • Lemon juice or lemon wedges

Instructions

  1. Put the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Make an indentation in the center of the flour and crack both eggs into the hole.
  3. Mix well with a fork until all the flour is mixed into to egg.
  4. Holding an electric hand mixer in one hand and the milk jug in the other gradually pour the milk into the bowl, and mix well until there are no lumps.
  5. Heat the butter or cooking oil in a large non-stick saucepan.
  6. When the fat is melted/heated pour the fat into a heat proof jug. (You only need a coating in the pan)
  7. Add a ladle full of pancake mix to the frying pan and tilt the pan to spread the mix out.
  8. Cook until the top of the pancake is bubbling.
  9. Lift one edge of the pancake with a pan slice - if the bottom of the pancake is a nice golden brown then flip it over.
  10. Cook until the bottom of the pancake is a golden brown too.
  11. Using a pan slice put the cooked pancake onto a warm plate and cover with a clean cloth.
  12. Pour the butter back into the pan, wirl around to coat the base, then tip back into the jug.
  13. Add another ladle of pancake mix and cook as before.
  14. You can use squares of baking paper inbetween the pancakes to stop them sticking together whilst waiting to be served.
  15. Serve warm with a sprinkling of sugar and a squirt of lemon juice.
Cast your vote for Easy To Make English Pancakes

Maundy Money

Source

Maundy Thursday

The "Ceremony of the Royal Maundy" takes places every year on the Thursday before Easter, and has done since the 13th century.

Queen Elizabeth II visits a UK cathedral and gives a purse containing specially minted Maundy coins to pensioners who have been chosen for something good that they have done for their community.

Each year one man and one woman is chosen for each year of the monarch's age. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth is currently eighty six years old, and last year one hundred and seventy two purses of coins were given out.

Each purse contains four silver standard coins, a 1 pence, 2 pence, 3 pence and 4 pence coin.

York Minster - Maundy Thursday - April 5th 2012

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Good Friday Walks

In honour of Jesus' crucifixion on Mount Calvary, many people take part in processions on Good Friday. They sometimes carry small crosses to remind them that Jesus had to carry his cross, and the walk will usually finish at a local high point.

Sometimes the children who have completed the walk will roll eggs down the hillside.

The picture above shows the Good Friday walk to Peel Tower on Holcombe Hill, near Ramsbottom in Lancashire.

When I was a child we used to walk from our village church to the Wedgwood Monument which stands on a hill just outside the nearby village of Bignall End in Staffordshire. Built to commemorate the local colliery owner John Wedgwood, it could be seen for miles around until a strong storm toppled it in 1976. Its remains have been capped, but it is a much shorter shadow of its former self.

If you would like to take part in a Good Friday Walk, here are the details of some that are taking place this year:

Links to Easter 2015 walks and processions will be posted early in 2015.

Good Friday in Ilkeston, Derbyshire

Source

Hot Cross Buns

Traditionally eaten on Good Friday, hot cross buns are now available before Easter and eaten when desired.

The cross on the top of the bun signifies Jesus's crucifixion.

After the traditional fasting period during Lent, hot cross buns were a sweet treat eaten just before Easter.

Hot Cross Bun Superstitions:

* If you share a hot cross bun with a friend it is supposed to signify that the friendship will last for another year.

* Hot cross buns are reputed to have medicinal properties, and if a sick person eats one they will be cured.

* If you bake your hot cross buns on Good Friday it is believed that they will not go mouldy.

Good Friday Hot Cross Bun Tradition:

If you happen to be in the East End of London on Good Friday you might like to pay a visit to The Widow's Son bar in Bromley by Bow.

The bar, built in 1848, stands on the site of a cottage where a widow and her son lived. Her son was a sailor and when he left home to go to sea she promised to bake him a hot cross bun and save it for him until he returned home safely. Unfortunately he drowned at sea, but his mother still baked a hot cross bun for him every year until her death, and saved them all.

Today,Mr Bunn's Bakery provides the bar with a hot cross bun each year, and they are placed in a net that hangs above the bar. Unfortunately the bar had a fire a few years ago, so the bun collection is somewhat blackened and diminished.

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Cook Time

Prep Time: 1/2 hour

Total Time: 3 1/2- 4 hours including rising time

Serves: 12

Hot Cross Bun Recipe

  • To Make The Buns - 1lb 2oz/500g strong white bread flour
  • 2 oz/55g muscovado sugar
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 oz cold butter sliced into smallish pieces
  • 3.5 oz/100g dried mixed fruit
  • 1 oz/ 25g candy peel
  • 0.25 oz/7g dried yeast
  • 0.5 pint/300 ml warm (not hot) milk
  • To Make The Crosses - 2.5 oz/75g all purpose plain flour
  • 1.5 oz cold butter sliced into smallish pieces
  • To Glaze The Buns - 1.5 tbsp warm apricot jam

Serving Suggestions

The buns are sliced into two and can be served cold or warmed.

Traditionally they would be spread with butter, but I also enjoy them with damson jam or a good coarse cut marmalade.

Instructions

  1. *To Make The Buns*
  2. Put the flour, sugar, spices and salt into a bowl and mix together.
  3. Rub the butter pieces into the flour (it should resemble small breadcrumbs)
  4. Put the candy peel and dried fruits into the mix and stir well so that the fruit is all coated with the flour mix.
  5. Sprinkle the yeast over the mix.
  6. Pour the warmed milk into the dry mix.
  7. Use a wooden spoon to mix the ingredients together thoroughly.
  8. Put the hot cross bun dough onto a pre-floured board and knead for at least 10 minutes.
  9. Put the kneaded dough into a large greased bowl.
  10. Place a cloth over the bowl, put the bowl somewhere warm and and leave the dough to rise.
  11. The dough mix needs to double in size, and this should take roughly 2 hours.
  12. Put the risen dough onto a floured board. You now need to knock the air out of the dough and knead for a further 2 minutes.
  13. Split the mix into 12 equal sized pieces and shape each into a round bun shape.
  14. Put the buns onto a greased baking sheet.
  15. Cut a cross on the top of each bun with a sharp knife (not too deep)
  16. Cover the tray with a cloth and allow to rise again, which will take about 45 minutes.
  17. Heat your oven to 425F/220C/Gas 7
  18. *To Make The Crosses*
  19. Rub the butter and flour together until they resemble bread crumbs.
  20. Put about 1/2 a tablespoon of cold water into the flour mix and stir.
  21. This should make a thick dough. If it is too dry add a little more water, and if it is too wet add a little more flour.
  22. Divide the dough mix into 12 equal pieces, roll them into balls, and put them in the fridge to chill, for about half and hour.
  23. Using your fingers roll each ball out into a snake, the same length as the buns are wide.
  24. Carefully put 2 strips on the top of each bun, in the shape of a cross. Don't press to hard or you will knock the air out of the buns and they won't rise properly.
  25. Bake in the heated oven for about 15 to 20 minutes. The buns should be risen and a nice golden brown color.
  26. Take the buns out of the oven, place onto a wire cooling rack, brush them with the warmed jam and allow to cool.

Video Guide to Making Hot Cross Buns

Source

The Easter Bunny

Originally children would have decorated hard boiled eggs at Easter, but it is traditional in the UK for children (and adults) to receive chocolate eggs at Easter time.

In recent years it has also become popular for children to take part in Easter egg hunts. Either their parents will hide eggs in and around the house and garden, and the children will try to find them all, or the children will be taken to organised Easter egg hunts.

Here is a list of some of the best Easter egg hunts that are taking place during Easter 2014 if you would like to take part:

  • If you are in London, the V&A Museum of Childhood has got Easter egg hunts on between the 19th and the 21st of April 2014.
  • For the 7th uyear running, in conjunction with Cadbury's and the National Trust there will be Easter Egg Trails taking part at 300 locations all over England, Wales and Scotland.
  • On the 16 Apr 2014 there will be a The Great Peter Rabbit Easter Egg Hunt in Bowness on Windermere in the Lake District.
  • Haddon Hall in Derbyshire has got an Easter egg hunt on Easter Sunday, 20th April 2014.
  • There is an Easter egg hunt at Highclere Castle, the home of Downtown Abbey on Easter Sunday, 20th April 2014.

Links to 2015 Easter egg hunts will be posted early in 2015.

The Great Easter Egg Hunt

Easter Bonnets

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Will You Be Wearing An Easter Bonnet?

It used to be a tradition in the UK for people to have a new set of clothes at Easter. This was in the days when people maybe only owned two sets of clothes, one of which would be there "Sunday Best" outfit, that would be only worn to church on Sundays and other important events or holidays. This outfit would include a hat, or bonnet.

In recent years it has become a tradition for children to make an Easter bonnet at school. Either making the hat from scratch, or decorating a straw wide brimmed hat, the hat would be adorned with Easter symbols such as chicks, eggs and flowers.

Often the bonnets are made at home and taken into school to be judged, which can lead to some very competitive parents putting a lot of effort into making sure their child has the best bonnet.

Below you can see a typical Easter bonnet, as worn by children all over the UK.

A 1970s Style Easter Bonnet

A 1970's Style Easter Bonnet
A 1970's Style Easter Bonnet | Source

Easter Bonnet Events, Easter 2014

If you would like to watch or take part in an Easter bonnet event in the UK at Easter 2014, here is a list of some of the best events:

  • There will be an Easter Bonnet Parade in Lyme Regis in Dorset on Easter Sunday.
  • For all those who will be in London at Easter there is an Easter Bonnet Parade Competition at Keats House, near to Hampstead Heath, on Easter Sunday.

Links to 2015 Easter bonnet parades will be posted early in 2015.

Judy Garland sings "In Your Easter Bonnet"

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Easter Holidays in the UK

Easter is early this year, and as such the weather could still be cold in the UK. For the last few years Easter has seen nice weather, indeed in 2011 we all sat outside on sun loungers after our Easter Sunday family lunch, not a luxury you would normally expect in Staffordshire.

If you want to maximise your chances of good weather then you probably need to think about the South West of England or the Channel Islands.

The South West of England, and in particular Devon and Cornwall, are beautiful places to visit at any time of the year, not just Easter.

What's on in the UK at Easter 2014?

— This will be updated early in 2015

Some ideas for Easter acitivities

* Visit London for a comprehensive list of ideas for Easter events in London.

* York 360 has lots of ideas for Easter acitivities in and around York.

* Birmingham Mail has a guide to Easter events in the Birmingham area.

* Kids Guide have lots of family friendly Easter activities all aorund the United Kingdom.

* Making it Discovery Centre in Mansfield have lots of kids activities on over the Easter period.

* Check out Explore Gloucestershire for lots of family friendly activities.

* Visit Scotland has listings for Easter Activities north of the border.

* Visit the Wales Directory for things to do in Wales at Easter.

* Discover Northern Ireland has a wealth of information of upcoming events taking place there this Easter.

* Visit Cornwall at Easter, and find out what's on before you go!

Roast Leg of Lamb

Source

A British Easter Lunch

Easter is traditionally a time for families to get together and maybe share an Easter lunch.

Easter tends to fall around lambing season in the UK, and roast lamb is to Easter what turkey is to Christmas. Below you will find a video guide to help you to cook the perfect roast lamb and mint sauce lunch.

A popular alternative these days is for families to go out and enjoy a restaurant meal or a pub lunch.

Great British Roast Lamb Recipe - with Mint Sauce & Gravy

I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o'er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

— William Wordsworth

"A Host of Golden Daffodils"

Source

A Time to Garden

Daffodils and Easter are entwined in the minds of British people, but depending when Easter falls and the harshness of the previous winter, the daffodils season could have not begun or already ended at Easter.

Easter is traditionally a time when people start to think about planning their gardens for the upcoming summer, and visits to the local garden centers are popular.

Easter is also the time when National Trust gardens and houses re-open after the winter.

If you would like to visit a garden or two at Easter, here is a selection of the best:

* The Eden Project near to St Austell in Cornwall is well worth a visit. I have visited here and its indoor rainforest is spectacular. Throughout 2013 they have 2 for 1 offers and children go free offers, depending on the time of year, which makes it an all weather affordable venue.

* Also close to St Austell in Cornwall are the Lost Gardens of Heligan.They do not have anything special planned for the Easter weekend, but if you enjoy walking in the spring air and admiring the plants then this is well worth a visit. After becoming overgrown and "lost" for nearly a century the gardens have been restored and I can assure you they are stunning. I spent a happy afternoon exploring these gardens and I came away a Heligan fan.

*If you are in Kent there are lots of gardens worthy of a visit.

* If you are visiting the Lake Distric over Easter, Cumbria has a plethora of gardens to visit.

* Formerly the ancestral home of the Marquess of Anglesey, Plas Newydd is sitauted on the bank of the Menai Strait on the isle of Anglesy in Wales. With Snowdonia providing a stunning backdrop these gardens are definitely worth a visit.

"Daffodils" by William Wordsworth (poetry reading)

Tete a Tete Narcissi/Daffodil 25 Bulbs
Tete a Tete Narcissi/Daffodil 25 Bulbs

If you would like to grow your own daffodils, to add a golden touch to Easter, then these are my absolute favorites.

A miniature version of the traditional daffodil, these are less likely to fall over in the rain - or Easter snowfalls, and can also be grown in window boxes and tubs.

 

British Easter Traditions - Please vote for your favorite

What was your favorite British Easter Tradition

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Have I inspired you to celebrate British Easter traditions in 2014?

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    • Ramkitten2000 profile image

      Deb Kingsbury 4 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

      Thanks for introducing me to how Easter is celebrated in another part of the world. It's always fun to learn about how other countries observe the holidays. We actually don't do much for Easter unless a friend invites us to her not-quite-annual Easter brunch, when she and her mom cook the most delicious things for their guests, while we sit around -- hopefully in the warm sun if it's not too windy or chilly -- in the backyard, decorating eggs, hunting around their house and yard for plastic eggs with prize numbers inside, and laughing and talking constantly. So, that's really our only Easter (semi)tradition.

    • suepogson profile image

      suepogson 4 years ago

      Makes me homesick! Thanks anyway!

    • Camden1 profile image

      Camden1 4 years ago

      It's always interesting to see how different countries celebrate holidays.

    • Titia profile image

      Titia Geertman 4 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

      Oh WOW but the British are known for keeping their great traditions up to date. Loved these great British Eastern traditions. Blessed.

    • profile image

      seegreen 4 years ago

      I love Hot Cross Buns and now I will know to share one with a friend. I just wish they wouldn't come out in the stores so early. Hot Cross Buns are meant for Easter, not for 4 months leading up to Easter. Lovely lens.

    • profile image

      aquarian_insight 4 years ago

      Mmmm you've made me want to have a Hot cross bun that's for sure! Lovely lens about British Easter Traditions.

    • shellys-space profile image

      Shelly Sellers 4 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      I remember wearing my "Easter bonnet" when I was young! Thanks for the wonderful British Easter photos!

    • CoeGurl profile image

      CoeGurl 4 years ago from USA

      What a wonderful lens about British Easter traditions.

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 4 years ago from San Francisco

      We do always look forward to fresh hot cross buns from our local pastry shop, but I'm afraid I won't be making it Great Britain any time soon. What a lot of work you put into this page! Well-deserved recognition for the Imminent Spring challenge.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I used to love watching the angel announcing the resurrection and little girls in white singing hosannas to homes. I love traditions and in our family we create them, too.

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 4 years ago

      This is a beautiful collection of images and I especially love the Easter bonnets

    • Dressage Husband profile image

      Stephen J Parkin 4 years ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

      You have made me yearn for real hot cross buns and roast lamb with mint sauce. For some reason th Canadians have not taken to either and they are virtually impossible to get here!

    • profile image

      JoshK47 4 years ago

      You very well may have! Blessed by a SquidAngel!

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      This is great information. Many of the customs are similar to the U.S. but some are very different. I love the idea of walking on Good Friday. Congratulations on front page honors.

    • Rosetta Slone profile image

      Rosetta Slone 4 years ago from Under a coconut tree

      Easter in Australia is very similar - those hot cross buns, pancakes with lemon juice, and lamb with mint sauce all make me homesick. What great traditions.

    • KateH2 profile image

      KateH2 4 years ago

      Great lens! Being born and living in the UK you can often lose sight of why and how we celebrate what we do and this lens is a reminder that Easter is so much more than Easter eggs and a long weekend. I will definitely be referring back to this lens nearer Easter this year for some Easter ideas.

    • BarbaraCasey profile image

      Barbara Casey 4 years ago from St. Petersburg, Florida

      Wow... that was almost like taking a trip over there in person.

    • graphite75 profile image

      Tom 4 years ago

      Seems like the British have lots of fun Easter traditions!

    • CamelliaPenny profile image

      Perrin 4 years ago from South Carolina

      Most certainly! Love this lens!!

    • artdivision1 lm profile image

      artdivision1 lm 4 years ago

      Can't wait for the hot cross buns

    • profile image

      traveldestinations 4 years ago

      Wonderful British traditions. Blessings.

    • JohnTannahill profile image

      John Tannahill 4 years ago from Somewhere in England

      It's funny, I've never thought of these things as being especially British. The only other country where I've spent Easter is Jamaica and Easter was quite similar really, except that they have cheese with their buns.

    • Anthony Altorenna profile image

      Anthony Altorenna 4 years ago from Connecticut

      Well done! I've never heard of Maundy Thursday, and I especially like the idea of Good Walks.

    • petertraoassi2 profile image

      petertraoassi2 4 years ago

      Easter is coming! Thank you for the insights.

    • J-Nevil LM profile image

      J-Nevil LM 4 years ago

      What an excellent lens! As an Englishman I can say I'm very impressed!

    • Onlinemum3 profile image

      Onlinemum3 4 years ago

      Beautiful lens. Our family all get together at Easter, and although we are not religious, it is a wonderful time to be together. Happy Easter.

    • handycrowd profile image

      Ian Anderson 4 years ago from Asker in Norway

      Lol! I am am Englishman abroad and my daffodil bulbs have still got three feet of snow over them :-) Still, I am looking forward to seeing them. We are planting more each year!

      Comprehensive lens!

    • profile image

      MarcellaCarlton 4 years ago

      I love the idea of the Friday walk.

    • profile image

      amblesidecentral 4 years ago

      most important is to be with your family, whatever you do...

    • Celticep profile image

      Celticep 4 years ago

      I love this lens! Viewed on my phone and the layout looks great! Nice pics and info, can't beat a family lunch on Easter Sunday. We have turkey!

    • CrazyHomemaker profile image

      CrazyHomemaker 4 years ago

      I LOVE this lens! I am an Anglophile at heart, even though I'm not even close to it. These are some great traditions. I'm going to try the hot cross buns. I think the walk would be of great benefit to a lot of people. It would clear the mind and strengthen the body. Thank you.

    • Dusty2 LM profile image

      Dusty2 LM 4 years ago

      I appreciate you sharing your British Easter traditions and culture. Your lens was very informative and well done that is very deserving of the Purple Star. Thank You! May you have a very Happy Easter 2013! (^_-)

    • espio007 profile image

      espio007 4 years ago

      Great Easter lens, contains lots of different British traditions.

    • worldflashpacker profile image

      worldflashpacker 4 years ago

      I'm also a Brit, living overseas, but on thing is for sure I'll be celebrating Easter. Thanks for sharing.

    • BunnyFabulous profile image

      BunnyFabulous 4 years ago from Central Florida

      I'd love to try making hot cross buns. You've got some great traditions here...maybe I'll do an Easter walk too.

    • Kathy Eickenberg profile image

      Kathy Eickenberg 4 years ago

      Loved your lens :) I have several friends from the UK and knew of some traditions but this was really interesting reading about them.

    • BGrimes profile image

      BGrimes 4 years ago

      I'm adding those hot cross buns to my Easter celebration. They look fabulous!

    • profile image

      JayRockins 4 years ago

      Mmm those hot cross buns look delicious. Some cinnamon cream cheese would really make it a hit!

    • chocochipchip profile image

      chocochipchip 4 years ago

      Learned a lot about Easter from your lens!!! Thank you!!!

    • Lee Hansen profile image

      Lee Hansen 4 years ago from Vermont

      I have some ideas for adding new art to my web sites for next Easter. Many of my visitors are from UK and Australia in addition to the USA.

    • Adventuretravels profile image

      Giovanna Sanguinetti 3 years ago from London UK

      I love that Easter bonnet. Thanks for a lens that is packed with information.

    • profile image

      tatacoch 3 years ago

      I love Easter eggs and anything chocolate-related, hot cross buns and sinmel cake, but for me the number one tradition is all the services in church (the watch of the passion, adoration of the cross, lighting of Pascal fire). That an breaking the alcohol fast after the Holy Saturday mass.

    • Spirality profile image

      Spirality 3 years ago

      Very interesting. The Easter bonnets and Good Friday Walks look fun.

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