“The initiative for the union of Europe will emerge from the street, not from the state. Tomorrow’s great man will be he who makes Europe.”
Gaston Riou, Europe, My Homeland. 1928.
The Easter period is a time of great celebrations for many Europeans. Sure, it’s a religious holiday, and the beginning of the return of sunshine for the year: but let’s not forget that it’s also a rare moment when it’s socially acceptable to stuff your face with chocolate. While the binge is the same, the excuses for it vary hugely across the continent – the task of the Easter bunny in one place is fulfilled, in Latvia, by the Easter granny. In France, it’s flying bells who will attend to your insatiable choco-lust. Sound weird? That’s just for starters. In other places you’ll be reading whodunnits, writing anonymous letters, or arrested for dancing. Some Europeans haven’t realised there’s another date in the calendar more traditionally associated with dressing up as a witch. Others will get into the Easter swing by, well, getting into an Easter swing – never mind if you haven’t finished digesting your Easter feast. And that’s not to mention all the things you get to do with eggs: eat them, paint them, roll them, smash them. So, just join for an egg-citing tour around Europe to discover how crazy continentals celebrate Easter…
Folar bread, Olive branch and Processions
Without surprise, Portugal celebrates Easter with fervour. It is a time of deep Catholic significance all over the country. Hundreds of pilgrims go to Braga where the town celebrates with several nocturnal processions, such as the famous Senhor da Cana Verde, meaning the Lord of the Green Cane. Domestic celebrations always include baking and eating the folar, a savoury bread that comes with a boiled egg in the middle, representing the rebirth of Christ. Codfish is eaten at the main meal on Good Friday and Holy Saturday, due to the tradition of abstaining from meat until the resurrection is celebrated on Easter Sunday, which is always accompanied with the smell of roast lamb. Tradition also dictates that godchildren offer their godparents an olive branch, flowers or even sweets such as Easter almonds or chocolates.
La Mona, Conical hats and Parades
Easter is regarded as the most important festival in Spain. It is a grand annual occasion and boasts of a rich heritage and culture. Known as Semana Santa in Spanish, it is a week of celebrations with parades organized throughout the country, with people carrying huge, leafy palm or olive branches. The long conical hats worn by the members of some brotherhoods during Spain’s Easter celebrations have nothing to do with the Ku Klux Klan. Instead, they originate in the hats worn by people found guilty of religious crimes in the Spanish Inquisition. Those criminals would walk the streets with the hats while they were mocked and insulted by the crowds. On Easter, a sumptuous feast is prepared in every household with special dishes like La Mona or Easter egg, pork sausage and hazelnut cream with pheasant ravioli truffles.
April fish, Flying bells and Giant omelette
During Easter period in France, you’ll see shopfronts and bakeries decorated with chocolate rabbits, chickens, bells, and other signs of spring – even fish, for France’s version of April Fools’ Day is called the “April Fish”. Although the Easter Bunny is starting to make a name for himself in France, traditionally it is the cloches de Pâques, or “flying bells” that have brought treats for children. French Catholic tradition says that on Good Friday, all church bells in the country sprout wings and fly down to the Vatican to be blessed by the Pope. After their getaway to Italy, the bells return to France laden with goodies for well-behaved children. France also has this (other) very weird tradition: every year on Easter Monday, around 10,000 people gather in the town of Bessières in southwestern France to make a giant omelette, made with 15,000 fresh eggs, a four-meter pan, 40 cooks, and extra long sticks.
Lamb, Ski but No party
Easter is taken very seriously in Iceland. According to the country’s law, all festivities are strictly prohibited on Good Friday – which means, no clubbing, no parties, no lotteries and no card games! Icelanders can however take comfort in Easter Egg. This chocolate goodness is stuffed with Icelandic candy and like Chinese fortune cookies, a proverb can be found inside each egg. Another popular pastime over Easter in Iceland is skiing. Many Icelanders travel across the country to find the right slope. Last but not less important is the “Easter Leg”. A typical dinner in Iceland on Easter Sunday consists of a roasted leg of lamb, sugar-glazed potatoes and gravy.
Spring cleaning, Hair cut, Sunrise
In Ireland, many family households would prepare their homes for Easter Sunday by doing what would be better known as “spring cleaning”, to prepare the house for blessing by the local priest which is a religious ceremony that dates back hundreds of years. On Good Friday people usually… have their hair cut, nails trimmed and would also shop for new clothes to be worn during the Easter mass. On Easter Sunday, many families, usually in rural areas, would often get up before dawn and go to a hill-top where they would patiently wait to see the sun do a jig. They would roll hardboiled eggs down slopes or small hills in a race to determine a winner. Some butchers would also conduct a mock funeral in honor of a dead herring. This symbolizes the end of Lenten abstinence.
Simmel cake, Maundy money and Morris Dance
Without surprise, it is common to eat chocolate eggs on Easter Sunday in the UK. This comes with the traditional outdoor Egg hunts and Egg rolling races where children roll hard-boiled eggs down a slope, competing to reach the bottom first. There is also a game for adults in the North-East of England, “Egg jarping”, which consists in tapping one hard-boiled egg against another to see which one survives intact. Brits do also enjoy the Simmel cake on Easter – a light fruit cake decorated with 11 or 12 marzipan balls representing the 12 apostles, excluding Judas. As regards traditions, Brits respect the Maundy money custom on the Thursday before Good Friday: the Queen shows the example by handing out special purses of coins to elderly people who have worked in their community. More spectacular, some perform the Morris Dance in villages – a complex choreography celebrating spring and involving white suits, belts and sticks.
Beer, Crime stories and Mountain trip
In Norway, reading crime stories during Easter is as natural as eggs and chickens. But to the outside world, the “Easter Crime” is literally a mystery. Every year the Norwegian love for “Easter Crime” (Påskekrim) makes headlines, and tops the lists of strange ways to celebrate the holiday around the world… Of course, when the book is over, Norwegians also celebrate Easter with a large family meal. The traditional Norwegian Easter lunch consists of boiled potato and vegetables with lamb meat, accompanied by Easter beer. Another Easter tradition unique to Norway is the mountain trip, where Easter is celebrated up in the mountains enjoying the sunshine, skiing, and eating oranges and Kvikk Lunsj, a famous chocolate bar comprising of crunchy wafer covered with milk chocolate.
Easterwitches, Snaps and Birch twigs
According to Swedish folklore, Maundy Thursday, or as we say it in Swedish Skärtorsdag, is the time when the witches will set off to a place called blåkulla to celebrate with the devil. This explains why Swedish children dress out as påskkärringar, or easter witches in English, to collect sweets and candies. Nobody told them there was an international celebration for that… Anyway, some Swedes also light up an Easter fire, originally to scare away Easter witches on their way to or back from Blåkulla. During Easter, Swedish people eat the usual feast supper, the same as midsummer and Christmas : herring, snaps and potatoes… nothing special then! However, the main Easter decoration in Sweden is the birch twigs which can be found on the streets and in people’s houses. The origin of birch twigs was a reminder of Christ’s suffering. Today these branches are decorated with coloured feathers and placed in vases around the house – an exclusive Swedish ritual.
Mämmi, Witches and Bonfires
Compared to Christmas, Easter is not as enthusiastically celebrated among the Lutheran Finns. But you can expect children to also dress as witches there! Back in the day, evil spirits and witches were believed to roam around the country, doing mischief on the Saturday before Easter. Finnish children reinterpret this old belief by wearing old and oversized clothes and headscarves, painting freckles and rosy cheeks on their faces, and whisking birch twigs decorated with feathers and crepe paper. Mämmi (or memma in Swedish) is the traditional Finnish Easter desert. This dish is made by mixing water, rye flour, and powdered malted rye, seasoned with dark molasses, salt, and dried powdered Seville orange zest. Its origins can be traced to the 16th century, but some scholars believe it originates from medieval Germany or even from the Great Persian Empire.
Anonymous letters, Salmon and Beers
During Easter period, Danes send anonymous letters! No kidding! An old Danish Easter tradition involves sending teaser letters with a riddle. The letter is cut out and decorated with vintergækker (snow drops) and is signed with dots that correspond to the number of letters in the sender’s name. If the recipient guesses who sent it, he will get an Easter chocolate egg. But if he doesn’t, he will be the one to offer a chocolate egg to the sender. When it comes to food, Easter lunch is a lavish affair in Denmark. Traditional dishes include lamb, eggs, salmon and herring. In true Danish style, a proper Easter lunch also involves Easter brew and schnapps. Oh, I forgot! Easter has its own beer in Denmark: Tuborg’s Easter beer, which was produced for the first time more than a 100 years ago. It’s definitely worth a try! Cheers!
Breakfast box, St Matthew Passion and Retail Park
If you have children at a Dutch primary school, they (rather you) will probably have to make an Easter breakfast box for Good Friday which they will give to another child in their class. This is a shoe box beautifully decorated with Eastery things and should contain all the ingredients for a delicious breakfast. Good Friday is also the day of the famous performance of St Matthew Passion at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. It is the sort of thing which people say you should have done once in your life. Some people go every year. In a more down-to-earth way, many Dutch people also seem to consider visiting an out-of-town retail park selling furniture – a woonboulevard – to be a traditional Easter activity… What? Food? Let’s not talk about Dutch gastronomy here…
Flying bells, Greenhouses and Cavalcade
Just as In France, an old Belgian legend tells the story that church bells disappear in the days before Easter and only return on Easter morning bringing chocolate and eggs. But even on that, flemish and walloon people couldn’t agree: in Flanders, the bells are believed to leave the night before Easter, whereas in Wallonia, it is believed they fly to Rome on Thursday. No matter who is right and who is wrong – let’s not get involved! Join instead the best Easter parade in Belgium, which is arguably the horse-led parade Cavalcade de Herve. While the city of Herve in Wallonia is better known for its cheese, its parade on horseback attracts around 50,000 visitors each year. Another common Easter occupation is to visit the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken, which are open just three weeks of the year, including Easter Monday.
Eat green, Be on fire but Don’t dance!
Many Germans make it their tradition to eat green food on Maundy Thursday, including spinach or Frankfurt’s famous green sauce – this is due to the word Gründonnerstag (Maundy Thursday in English) which contains grün in it, meaning ‘green’ in English. Almost every region of Germany has its own celebratory green dishes for the holiday, such as the savory leek yeasted cake called Grüner Kuchen (“green cake”) from Hesse, in central Germany. Bear in mind that, on Good Friday, it is still illegal to dance! But whether anyone actually enforces this is another question. This is not all: not content with a standard fire, some regions stuff straw into a large wooden wheel on the night before Easter Sunday, set it on fire and roll it down a hill at night. This is called the Osterräderlauf – Easter wheel run. Real German fun!
Osterbaum, Osterpinze, Osterlamm, Osterhase
In the weeks and days leading up to Easter, Viennese flower shops “blossom” with thin tree branches, mostly of different varieties of willow. People buy the branches to put in a vase and hang ribbons and decorated eggs. This is the so-called Osterbaum – which can compete with the Christmas tree. On Easter Sunday, the 40 days of fasting for Lent officially come to an end. This is an excellent excuse for Austrians to tuck into a traditional Easter brunch with Osterpinze (sweet bread), cold cuts, coloured eggs and horseradish. Children are also given a delicious cake in the form of a lamb (Osterlamm), traditionally by their godfather or godmother. And of course, who brings all the chocolate eggs? The Osterhase, the famous egg-laying mammal which happens to be a rabbit…
Create, Break and Cry
In Switzerland, Easter marks the onset of spring season and is celebrated as such with much fanfare and religious fervor. In this country, it is the cuckoo who brings Easter eggs – we agree it makes more sense than a mammal. A popular Easter game in Switzerland is the Zwanzgerle, wherein the adults have to break the decorated eggs of their children with a twenty cent coin. If he/she fails, he loses the twenty cent coin. In case he/she wins, he gets both the coin and the egg – just hope that the children don’t start crying… Speaking about which, another tradition that is specific to western Switzerland is called ‘weeping women’. In this, women carry crimson cushions, bearing the symbols of Christ’s passion (a crown of thorns, nails, hammer, birch sticks and a whip) while crying and walking through the streets.
The Pope, Explosions and Pizza
As you know, Rome is the city of the Vatican state, which at this time of the year is a mecca for Catholic pilgrims. On Good Friday many people gather in Saint Peter’s Basilica to listen to the Pope’s mass at 5 pm. In Florence, Easter is celebrated with the Scoppio del Carro (Explosion of the cart). A huge, decorated wagon is dragged through Florence by white oxen until it reaches the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. After mass, the Archbishop sends a dove-shaped rocket into the fireworks-filled cart, creating a spectacular display. After such celebrations, Italians obviously enjoy their traditional Easter food, made up of Pizza Sbattuta (what did you expect?), a sponge cake, hard boiled eggs, ham and corallina, a typical salami for Easter, as well as different varieties of salty cakes. In Lombardia, the Colomba is the most famous Easter dessert, a dove-shaped bread made with almonds, sugar and egg whites.
Czechia – Slovakia
Running after, dousing and whipping girls
For many women in Czechia and Slovakia, the Easter season, known as Velikonoce, is not their favorite time. It is a time when they get whipped with a braided rod of willow called a pomlázka. The name comes from pomladit, meaning “to make younger” and how it got tied up with Easter isn’t very clear. Boys in villages go around from door to door on Easter Monday to slap women, even strangers, on the legs, thighs or buttocks with the whip. The victim is supposed to give the boy an egg or some chocolate, as a sign of gratitude (in which world are we living in?). Alternatively, boys will run up to a girl and douse her with water. This has something to do with ancient fertility rites. We can’t help but thinking about #metoo. More ‘sophisticated’, it is customary to bake a lamb on Easter Sunday, but real lamb is usually replaced by one made from gingerbread or pound cake.
Lots of Meat, Rattles and new Wardrobe
The Slovenian name for Easter is Velika noč, which means “Great Night.” It’s also a great holiday for eating after weeks of fasting. Slovenes are ready to tuck into the palette of foods that await the traditional table: smoked pork, salted beef, hard-boiled eggs, prosciutto, pigs head, or parts of it with ears, bacon, klobasa, and stuffed stomach or budel, which is made by combining beaten eggs, cubed white bread, a small onion, cubed ham, along with salt and pepper, put into intestines and cooked. Easter in Slovenia is definitely not vegetarian… The central culinary symbol for Slovenes for Easter is nevertheless the potica, a rolled yeast bread with various fillings, such as nuts, honey, poppyseed or almond. When they are not eating, Slovenes are also keen to play with their wooden rattles, which take the place of church bells which have “gone to Rome” for the day. The rattles can be hand-held of larger variety. It looks… well… entertaining! After so much fun, Slovenes can eventually opt for changing their old wardrobe.
Kalács, Locsolkodás and other words with “-ács”
Typically Hungarians eat ham served with horseradish and boiled eggs on Easter Sunday while kalács (a kind of braided Milk Loaf) is served at Easter in Hungary. Of course chocolate eggs are also a huge part of the Easter diet, although this is a more modern element of the celebration. Just as in Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia, boys and men recite a poem to women and girls on Easter Monday, before “sprinkling” them with perfume. But perfume is quite expensive and Hungarian men greedy, so that it is often replaced by with a bucket of cold water! This is called locsolkodás here. If you are in Budapest for Easter, the annual Easter market on Vorosmarty Square is an excellent venue for finding handmade crafts and seasonal decorations – you can even talk to the artists responsible for making the items for sale (but only if you speak Hungarian…).
Painted eggs, Lamb-shaped cake, Water Battle
As regards religion, you well know how Poles are…. This comes then as no surprise that they celebrate Easter with fervour, by first starting with a spring cleaning. In the countryside, people would use the occasion to repaint their barns. On the Saturday before Easter Sunday, Poles paint hard-boiled eggs (called pisanki) and prepare Easter baskets, containing a sampling of Easter foods: pisanki, a piece of sausage or ham, salt and pepper, bread, a piece of cake and an Easter Lamb made of sugar or even plastic. On Easter Sunday, Polish families celebrate their traditional Easter breakfast and eat all the food that was blessed the day before. The most common Easter food includes: coloured eggs, bread, ham, sausages, horseradish, ćwikła (horseradish mixed with beetroot) and żur (sour rye soup). Here as well, on Easter Monday, boys throw water over girls and spank them with willow branches. They say it’s tradition, but why not making it gender-neutral?
Grannies, Carols and Superstitions
We have all heard about the Easter Bunny, but what about the Easter Granny? Well, in Lithuania, it is up to grandmothers to go out and hide all of the decorated-eggs, called Marguciai, that everyone has made. When you think about it, Lithuanians make more sense… Similar to Christmas carollers, Lithuanians would also traditionally go from house-to-house to sing hymns in exchange for Marguciai or Easter food. It is considered a good way for the unmarried women to impress the eligible men with their egg-decorating skills… Most interesting, Lithuania, together with Latvia and Estonia, stands out for its impressive number of Easter-related superstitions, such as “Before the sunrise, go to the barn to pick up crumbs, so that the money stays”, “keep a few eggs hidden in the house to protect everyone from fire during lightning storms” or even “bury a decorated egg at the front of the home to keep the family safe from harm”.
Swing, Sun, Songs
Lieldienas is the Latvian Easter. It was traditionally the celebration of the spring equinox but became associated with Easter once Christianity took hold. On Easter morning people arose before the rising of the sun, and to obtain health and beauty, they hurried to wash their faces in a spring or a stream running east. This was followed by one of the most important Easter activities – awaiting the sunrise exactly when it appears on the equinox morning. One of the oldest traditions associated with Lieldienas is also to build a swing (preferably on a tall hill), and swinging on it as high as possible. This appears to be a magical tradition: it is said that by swinging high in the air, it encourages the sun to keep rising higher and higher in the sky as spring progresses. Latvians have a treasury of folk songs called ”Dainas” and one can find many different folk songs about Easter.
Egg rolling, Egg picking, Egg knocking
Estonia may be one of the least religious countries in the world, but when it comes to religious holidays, Estonians generally give the nod or combine it with one of their own folk traditions. Many of the Easter customs, like egg-knocking, that are still practised today come from old folk traditions. Egg rolling, though not widely practised, has the same principle as egg knocking, trying to crack your opponent’s egg by rolling it down a pile of sand to hit other eggs. It’s a kind of Estonian pétanque, if you wish. Contrary to Poland, Estonian girls do have the power on Easter Sunday! They would let boys choose a decorated Easter egg and depending on which colour they chose, they would then be able to judge their personalities: pink – gentle, green – hope, blue – fidelity, yellow – falsehood and grey – balance.
Valachobny and Pascha
The Orthodox Church bases its calculations on the Julian Calendar, the Catholic – on the Gregorian one. So in Belarus, depending on the lunar calendar, Easter varies between March 31 and May 8. Apart from Easter eggs, Belarus people enjoy an Easter Cake called Pascha, which is traditionally made from cottage cheese, with some sour cream, butter and sugar. Top is spread with the letters “H. W.”, which means “Christ is risen”. A characteristic feature of the Belarusian Easter folklore is valachobny songs. The custom of walking around all the yards on Easter has very ancient roots. They believed that Valachobniki – boys and girls – walking around the village brought unity and good luck to the community. Coming up to the window, Valachobniki sang songs praising the host, hostess, their sons and daughters.
Syrnyk, Paska and Church
Ukrainian Easter celebrations are a beautiful melding of traditional Christian practices, folklore, and ancient pagan symbolism. On Easter morning, Ukrainians take their baskets of food to Church to be blessed by the priest before being consumed to “break-fast”. The traditional Ukrainian Easter morning breakfast consists of hard-boiled eggs, various meats, sausages and ham, butter, salt, horseradish, cheese and the famous Paska – a beautifully decorated Ukrainian Easter bread. Tradition states that the baker must keep their thoughts pure and the entire household quiet in order to ensure the bread bakes properly and becomes its fluffiest. The lunch ends with lots of desserts, including syrnyk (a kind of cheesecake), poppyseed roll and meringue tortes The week after Easter is also a time for memorializing the dead in Ukraine. Families bring baskets of food and small gifts to cemeteries and leave them for their ancestors.
Romania – Moldova
Egg painting (again) and ancient spirits
Easter in Romania and Moldova looks like in any other country: religious celebrations and lots of food, mainly consisting of lamb meat. The most commonly known and widespread Easter tradition in Romania is without surprise painting eggs – you will find this wherever in Romania you choose to spend Easter. But Romanians also have some superstitions and customs of their own. In Bucovina, on the night of Easter, there is the custom of “fires vigilance”. Fires are lighted on the hills to burn all night. Also, on the Monday after Easter, ancient spirits are appeased. These ancient spirits, or little people, can’t determine when Easter is over on their own and only understand when they see the remains of eggshells floating on the water, which have been placed there by human celebrants.
Croatia – Serbia – Bosnia and Herzegovina – Albania – Montenegro – Kosovo
Costumes, Ancient hymns and Kolo
Eastern Orthodoxy is the majority religion in the Balkan region, but a variety of different traditions of each faith are practiced during Easter period. In particular Christians of the coastal towns of Dalmatia put on traditional costumes, sing ancient hymns and dance – the most common one being the kolo (“circle dance”) which is regarded as the oldest form of dance, and can be seen as an expression of community, especially in village life. All this can happen around the fire light. In northwestern Croatia, on Holy Saturday, the Christians would prepare the fire by cutting stone on stone before the vigil. When the fire is lit, the Christians burn their own piece of wood, which they carry home to transfer the holy fire. Just as in Slovenia, there is also in some part of the Balkans the old custom of making clappers and ratchets.
Bulgaria – North Macedonia
Good luck crack, Red eggs, Clean Faces
As the Bulgarian name implies Velikden (Great Day), Easter is one of the most significant holidays in the Bulgarian calendar. The Bulgarian good luck crack is a unique Easter tradition in Bulgaria: Eggs are cracked after the midnight service and over the next few days. People take turns in tapping their eggs against the eggs of others, and the person who ends up with the last unbroken egg is believed to have a year of good luck. Another country, another tradition, at dawn on Maundy Thursday, Macedonian housewives wake up before sunrise and dye three eggs red. The first egg is considered the most important as it is devoted to Jesus. It is placed in sunlight, usually near a door or a window, as it is believed that when the sun rises it will shine the rays of God on it. Some families also keep the tradition of washing their faces with water infused with a red egg, basil, geranium and cornel.
Tsoureki, Magiritsa and Rouketopolemos
On Thursday evening, all of the Greeks prepare for the Holy Weekend. Everybody makes the delicious sweet Easter bread, called Tsoureki (or buys it from the bakery because it’s very difficult). This is eaten on Easter as the three braid of the bread represent the Holy Trinity. Late on Saturday night, before midnight all the people go to all the churches, which all seem full to bursting. Then follows a festival of light that is a true delight – at midnight the church goes dark and the bells ring out to proclaim the resurrection, and people start cheering and letting off fireworks and crackers! Most impressive (and somehow very weird), is the rouketopolemos in Vrontados on the Chios Island: two churches sit opposite one another on opposing sides of a valley. The two sides fire tens of thousands of homemade rockets across the valley at the other church. The purpose is to hit the bell tower of the opposing church. While this war is being waged, the midnight liturgy is still performed inside each church amid all of the action…
Flowers, Vinegar and Swings
In Cyprus, Good Friday begins with everyone taking flowers to church so that the young girls can decorate the Epitafios (the Holy Sepulchre). The whole structure is completely decorated with flowers, a job that takes the greater part of Good Friday morning. At lunchtime the traditional Faki Xidati – vinegar and lentil soup – is eaten, containing vinegar because it is said that when Christ asked for water on his way to Calgary, he was given vinegar instead. It is the custom on Easter Sunday and Monday for everyone to have lunch in the church yard and each family brings its food and wine and everybody eats at long tables made out of stands and long wooden planks. At this occasion, Judas, the Christ’s traitor, is burned in the church yard. Young people also celebrate by hanging up souses – swings. For this purpose young men and girls hang ropes from trees and while the girls swing, they al sing gay songs or love songs, or teasing songs called Tchatismata.
Black curtains, Bread and Family
Whether you’re religious or not, many of the traditions of Easter are part of our wider culture. The majority of the population in Turkey is muslim, but when it’s Easter in Turkey, make a point of checking out the local pastane or cake shop. Chances are high they will be selling Paskalya çöreği, eaten by Orthodox Armenians at this time. Sold throughout Istanbul, they sometimes come with an egg baked into the middle. For Orthodox Armenians, Easter Thursday is the most important day because it was the day that Jesus Christ washed the feet of his disciples and fed them. The priest does the same, washing the feet of children in the congregation. Then on Friday they go to the cemetery to visit family members who have passed away. As with Roman Catholics, Sunday mass is the main event. In the Armenian church it is a sombre affair. Everything is covered and there are black curtains on the windows. The culmination of the Easter period for everyone is the end of the fast and the feast that follows shared with family and friends.