Spending Easter Abroad

Spending Easter Abroad

with guest blogger

Brooke Berry

I’ve lived in the North of the Netherlands for nearly eight months as an exchange student, and I’m celebrating my first major holiday abroad (I went home for Christmas). There are lots of things, not just cultural that are shaping my experience of the holiday. My Arizona home is sunny, and it barely rains whereas I’ve been enduring days of continuous rain here in the Netherlands. I can’t imagine the Easter bunny hiding eggs unless he’s wearing rain boots and an umbrella. I love my time here, but I’m feeling the pull of my homegrown traditions.

There are a few noticeable differences and some similarities between a Dutch Easter and a U.S. one. Over half of the Netherlands is not religious, yet they do typically come from Christian ancestry. Because of this, holidays such as Easter and Christmas are still observed here just not quite in the way I thought they would.

Our Arizona Traditions

In the United States, much of the fun of holidays is spent in the days leading up to them. Before Easter: eggs are dyed, decorations hung, and treats are baked. Contrary to belief, these are not activities and festivities associated with the holiday internationally.

Back in Arizona, my family follows traditional Christian Easter Sunday rituals, starting with us all gathering together in the same home. On Easter morning, there are baskets filled with goodies hidden around the house by the “Easter Bunny” for each child. Following this, there is a morning church service and a brunch which is either homemade or held at a local restaurant.

In Groningen, Netherlands

Walking around my town of Groningen, Netherlands, there are many store windows decorated very similarly to how they would be in the U.S., all resembling fertility and new life. There are cute pastel colors, bunny rabbits and chicks, delicious chocolates and painted eggs. However, upon asking neighbors and classmates about the upcoming holiday, very few had set plans for Easter.

I found that most Dutch people do hide eggs for children and may go to a high tea, brunch or dinner. However, in Holland, it is not nearly as popular as Christmas. Some may attend an Easter-fire as part of the celebration. These are ancient European traditions where large fires are lit, and many people join together, their purposes are to “scare” away winter and to resemble fertility and revitalization.

There are a couple of typical Dutch baked treats for these ‘holy days’. Many of which are homemade wheat-based bread and cakes. One of the most popular is the Paasbrood, which is a lovely moist raisin bread with a soft almond paste filling. It is served warm with powdered sugar on top in many homes on Spring mornings, and it is delicious.

Another treat found in local Dutch stores during this season is the infamous Kinder Chocolate Egg Surprise. This treat is a large milk chocolate egg that contains a small toy on the interior. They are indulged in by people of all ages during the Spring season. Surprisingly enough this same candy is banned in the United States due to suspicion of choking hazards amongst children, although other Kinder products are sold and enjoyed.

This Easter in Groningen, aside from the other festivities, there is a popular fútbol (soccer) game occurring where thousands will spend their holiday, including me. I do miss home and family, but I am excited to see what new memories the Easter 2018 holds. I’ll let you know how it goes!

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