- 20 Jan
Easter is celebrated by Christians of all kinds, but depending on culture and rite, different Easter traditions and customs. The Balkans have always danced to their own tune, even when it comes to religion. Much of the Balkans is Eastern Orthodox, and if you come from a place with a majority of Catholics or Protenstants etc, you might discover that Eastern is a whole different kettle of fish in the Balkans. Although the gist of the holidays is the same as anywhere else, what makes Easter in the Balkans really unique is the way in which it is celebrated. In addition to the fact that Orthodox Easter is usually on a different date than the one used by Western Christianity, there are a lot of interesting traditions that make Easter a perfect time to visit the Balkans. So if you’re interested in cultural experiences, how about checking out how people celebrate Easter around the world - the Balkans and Eastern Europe are a good place to start.
One of the most famous Easter traditions in the Balkans is egg-dying, which is usually done on the Thursday before Easter Sunday. Traditionally, eggs were dyed in red, symbolizing the blood of Christ, and although nowadays Easter eggs are dyed in all sorts of colors, the traditional patterns and colors are still popular in the countryside. Floral and geometrical motifs are quite common in parts of Romania, Moldavia, Ukraine and a great deal of effort is put into making the eggs as pretty as possible. In some countries like Serbia for example the first dyed egg is kept until next Easter, must of the eggs are eaten on Easter Sunday and the following days. Before eating them, however, the eggs are used to play a game in which each player tries to break other players’ eggs using their own egg. The winner is the last egg standing, but the losers get to eat their own eggs, which is not too bad after all! If you want to experience all these traditions first-hand, book accommodation at a traditional guesthouse in the countryside.
Easter markets where you can buy arts and crafts, hand-decorated eggs, Easter sweets and traditional costumes are very popular throughout the Balkans. The Easter Market in Sibiu, Romania, is quite popular and a great place to load up on goodies and souvenirs, as well as to take in the medieval charm of the former European capital of culture.
Easter is a great time for foodies to visit Eastern Europe or the Balkans, because after the privations of the Lent period, people really do their best to put on the feast of a lifetime for Easter. In Greece, you can taste delicacies like Easter bread (tsoureki), mayiritsa soup (made with lamb offal and eaten after the midnight Easter mass). In Romania you can indulge in drob, a haggis-style mix of meat and offal baked in a caul. One of the centerpieces of the Bulgarian Easter feast is the kozunak, a braided bread, and similar breads and cakes are eaten in other parts of the Balkans, Eastern Europe and Central Europe as well.