Celebrating Easter in Europe’s Hidden Jewel

Combining the old world charm of enchanting medieval cities and a dramatic landscape dotted with pristine Alpine lakes, it is no wonder that Slovenia is called Europe’s “hidden jewel.”

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Lake Bled at Twilight

While all four seasons captivate visitors with world class skiing, mountain climbing, wine tasting, and holidays by the sea, springtime with its vibrant Easter festivities is the perfect time to partake in the local culture.

In the Christian tradition, Easter commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, in Slovenia the Easter holidays are widely celebrated by both religious and non-religious people due to the combination of centuries-old tradition, deep rooted beliefs, and a focus on family.

Kranj, Slovenia

The holidays begin on Thursday when Slovenes head to church to remember the Last Supper and Christ’s suffering. At this time, the church bells are silenced and do not ring again until Sunday morning.

Good Friday is a day of great sadness for many families as it marks the crucifixion of Jesus. This remembrance is often honored by a time of fasting.

On Saturday, men bring holy fire from the church to their homes. The women use this fire to prepare the Easter feast. The food is placed in a basket (representing the tomb of Christ), covered with a cloth (representing the shroud which covered Jesus’ body), and is carried to the church to be blessed by the priest.

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Blessing of the Easter baskets

Each dish eaten for Easter breakfast has a special meaning, though the traditions vary slightly between regions. Generally speaking:

– Smoked ham represents the body of Christ
– Horseradish represents the nails driven into his hands and feet
– Potica, a traditional rolled pastry usually filled with walnuts or poppy seeds, represents the crown of thorns placed on his head
– Oranges represent the vinegar soaked sponge offered to Jesus
– Red colored Easter eggs represent his wounds

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Potica

Supposedly,  there are over 40 symbols represented by the Easter food. Various regions also have their own special dishes such as Prata, which is a flat baked loaf of white bread stuffed with pork and precooked in butter or cream, from the northern region of Gorenjska ,or zviti zavec (stomach meat) from the Prlekija region.

On Easter Sunday, the church bells ring out once more in a joyous Easter hallelujah which signifies Christ’s resurrection.

Church bells in Central Europe

Slovenes call Easter Sunday ‘Velika noč’, which means ‘great night.’ The origin of this name comes from the belief that Jesus rose from the dead either at night, or Sunday at dawn. In honor of this important day, no work may be done and time is reserved for visiting family and eating the fabulous Easter meal.

Not sure where to spend your spring holidays? Pack your bags and explore the landscape and customs of one of Europe’s most beautiful countries. Slovenia is waiting for you.