Easter markets, processions among the ways to celebrate the season
Stars and Stripes March 27, 2023
Across Europe from Sweden to Sicily, the importance Christians place on the religious holiday of Easter shines through in the wonderfully varied ways in which it is prepared for and celebrated. From markets to processions, here are some places to fall into the solemn yet joyful spirit of the season.
Vienna, Austria: It’s not just Christmas markets that enchant visitors to Austria’s elegant capital. The Easter season ushers in a handful of charming markets that add color and a sense of spring to the city streets.
Against the baroque backdrop of the Schönbrunn Palace, some 70 exhibitors sell decorations and handicrafts alongside culinary treats. Children can make marzipan bunnies in a workshop as the adults enjoy live musical entertainment.
The Freyung, a pretty old square in the Old Town, hosts an Old Viennese-styled market whose crowning glory is a tower built of around 40,000 painted Easter eggs. Young visitors can enjoy a Kasperl, a stage show in the style of Punch & Judy, or try their hands at creative pursuits. Musical entertainment is offered at 4:30 p.m. on most days.
The Am Hof Easter Market, located in the city center, offers not only the usual eggs, décor and clever crafts but also plenty of hearty food options for immediate consumption or savoring at home later.
Most of Vienna's Easter markets start up on March 24 and remain open through April 10. For dates and times, check online at tinyurl.com/e53u4tbv
Nuremberg, Germany: The city’s traditional Easter market is centrally located at the spacious Hauptmarkt square. In addition to holiday décor, visitors will find around 100 stalls selling quality handicrafts and housewares such as baskets, ceramics, textiles and kitchen gadgets, along with plenty of chocolate and other sweet treats. The Easter market is open 10 a.m.-7 p.m. daily from March 24 through April 10 with the exception of Good Friday, when it remains closed throughout the day. Online: tinyurl.com/52b4k3fw
Prague, Czech Republic: The Easter Market on the Old Town Square, running March 25-April 16, sees vendors and craftsmen offer goods from decorated eggs to ceramics, handicrafts, textiles, home décor and more. From late afternoon, a cultural program including folk song and dance ensembles unfolds beneath a decorated birch tree. Traditional treats such as gingerbread, potato pancakes, sausages and stuffed dumplings keep visitors fueled and content. Online: tinyurl.com/3n6v2svx
Colmar, France: With its canals and cobblestone streets, the third-largest city of the Alsace region is a charmer indeed. From April 6-30, the city welcomes the return of spring with this market that takes over the Place des Dominicains. Many of the products on offer, including plants, beauty products, toys and tableware, have been produced locally. In addition to the ubiquitous chocolate rabbits and eggs, pick up a “lamala,” a lamb-shaped cake baked in a pottery mold. Online: tinyurl.com/mr8kz94c
Luxembourg: Éimaischen, the traditional celebration of Emmaus, takes place throughout the capital city on Easter Monday. The day features song and dance performances by folklore groups, activities for children and numerous stalls offering handicrafts and pottery. The most traditional of souvenirs to pick up on this day is a Péckvillercher, a bird-shaped whistle made of clay. Online: tinyurl.com/mw2ucjnn
Herve, Belgium: Since 1896, the small town of Herve near Liège has celebrated Easter Monday by staging a spectacular procession in which dozens of floats are pulled through the streets by sturdy draught horses, accompanied by live music, dancing and an explosion of fireworks. The spectacle gets underway at 2:30 p.m. at la place Albert and is followed by a closing party featuring DJ music. Online: cavalcadeherve.be
Trapani, Sicily: For the past 400 years, the Procession of the Mysteries of Trapani has added a sense a wonder to the days leading up to Easter. This type of Easter pageant, known as a Passion Play, re-enacts the trial, suffering and death of Jesus Christ. Central to the spectacle are the “Misteri,” life-sized sculptural ensembles, many of which are centuries old. The procession gets underway at 2 p.m. on Good Friday, when the sculptures are taken out from their holding place in the Church of the “Anime del Purgatorio” and carried through the streets for the next 24 hours. Online: tinyurl.com/2u95tx7n
AN EXPLOSIVE TRADITION
Florence, Italy: Easter Sunday in downtown Florence is other than peaceful when the Scoppio del Carro (Explosion of the Cart) unfolds. In this event, an elaborate 30-foot-high cart that’s been in use for more than 400 years is hauled by a team of garland-festooned white oxen from the Porta al Prato to the Cathedral Square. The procession includes hundreds of musicians and reenactors in historical costume. Upon reaching the square, a mechanical dove bearing a lit fuse is released along a wire running from the high altar inside the cathedral to the cart. Once it strikes, a display of fireworks lasting some 20 minutes plays out. The procession gets underway at 10 a.m. Online: tinyurl.com/47wp9sxx
A PAPAL MESSAGE
Rome: Many practicing Catholics aspire to experience one of the Easter Masses held in St. Peter’s Basilica between Palm Sunday and Easter Monday. While such high-demand events can only be accessed by means of tickets requested in writing months in advance, the Pope’s Urbi et Orbi blessing, to be given at noon on Easter Sunday at St. Peter’s Square, is accessible to all. Arriving very early on the day is highly advisable. Online: www.vatican.va