All around the world, cultures observe Easter in different ways: France has its flying bells, Australian children look forward to the arrival of the Easter Bilby, and Finnish children will dress up as witches and go out casting good spells for treats. But there’s one tradition that is universal: the flower.
For the northern hemisphere, Easter coincides with winter turning into spring, so bright pops of color are just starting to appear as the flowers begin to bloom and the trees begin to bud. This natural display of new life is hard to miss, so even below the equator where the seasons are changing from summer to autumn, Easter festivities still incorporate flowers. Just like eggs, fluffy yellow chicks, and bunnies, flowers represent fertility, fresh beginnings, and rebirth.
Homes and shops everywhere make the most of this seasonal burst of color by displaying vibrant arrangements of flowers throughout the Easter celebrations. Easter meals often include a floral centerpiece on the table and churches host elaborate flower festivals as a symbolic nod to the resurrection. Many people also give flowers as gifts – fewer calories than a chocolate egg!
Popular Easter flowers even hold varying meanings. White Easter lilies are considered a very traditional Easter flower as they are an ancient symbol of the resurrection, representing purity and hope. The daffodil is a common first sign of spring across the world and in Germany are known as the “Easter bells”. Other popular symbols include the tulip, the daisy, and the azalea.
Around Spain and other Latin American countries, extravagant processions are commonplace at Easter (known as Semana Santa, or Holy Week) where parade floats of intricate religious scenes are embellished with bright clusters of flowers. Traditionally, the choice of flowers on each float depends on which figure is being depicted. If it’s a statue of Jesus, it’s usually adorned with red flowers as a symbol of blood, or blue irises for the color of the robe he was said to be wearing when he was crucified. The Virgin Mary is shown with white, cream, and sometimes pastel pink flowers to symbolise purity.
Processions also take place in the Philippines, where children dress as angels and throw flowers on passers-by. Another widespread custom involves palm fronds (palaspas) blessed on Palm Sunday, which are believed to ward off bad luck, lightning, and fires if displayed in the home for the following year.
On the night before Easter Sunday in Ouro Preto, Brazil, flower petals are used to create a 4km-long colorful carpet that stretches along the streets of the town. The petals are arranged into intricate patterns together with sand and colored sawdust, creating a path for the Semana Santa procession to walk from church to church the next day. A similar tradition takes place across Guatemala, where the streets are lined with carefully laid out flowers, as well as fruits and vegetables. Many people work overnight to have these elaborate floral artworks in place for the celebrations the following morning.