GENEVA – Easter signifies sacrifice and fresh beginnings filled with hope.
Growing up in Australia, Easter was a religious holiday with visits to church and also a fun time with Easter Sunday feasting and Easter egg hunts.
With travel restrictions still in place, this year feels like an even more important time to take stock of one’s health and bask in Easter cheer.
After all, this time of the year marks the beginning of spring when life is renewed.
One also takes pleasure in cakes and good eats to end the sacrifice of Lent.
This year, walking around modest Swiss villages, I encounter distinctive Easter activities.
In my home town of Nyon, fountains are decorated by local school children whereas along Lake Geneva, I see trees festooned with hard-boiled eggs that are dyed and beautifully decorated.
As I sit in my tiny apartment waiting for the world to open up, I think about other Easter traditions that make the world a more vivid place to live in.
With its optimistic spirit, Easter is a good time to anticipate better days after the pandemic.
No meal in Sweden is complete without pickled fish and potatoes, so for Easter, Swedish families enjoy the same dishes as an elaborate smorgasbord.
Traditional dishes include pickled herring, cured salmon and also Jansson’s Temptation, which is potato, onion and pickled anchovies baked in cream. The meal is enjoyed with shots of alcohol (schnapps), which are spiced with seasonal ingredients.
The Swedes also enjoy paskmust, a dark-brown soft drink infused with spices and malt extract.
Egg-cellent tip: Children may not be able to indulge in schnapps and spiced lager, but they do take centre stage during Easter and dress up as Easter witches (paskkarring) who ask friendly neighbours for candy in exchange for handmade Easter letters.
Throughout Latin America, Easter is a time to cleanse the soul and be rid of evil.
On Holy Saturday, re-enactments of events such as the burning of the disciple Judas who betrayed Jesus and the resurrection of Christ take place, with passionate performances by kids in many villages.
The largest theatrical play is in Iztapalapa, Mexico City. More than 5,000 people take part in this play that dates back to 1843.
Food plays a huge role during the two-week Easter celebrations. Fish replaces red meat, with fish soup and lima beans (pipian) being a popular dish.
Also well-loved is a bread-and-butter pudding made with dried fruit and a creamy custard (capirotada). The sweet symbolises crucifixion, with cinnamon sticks forming a cross.
Egg-cellent tip: Aguas frescas, which is a zesty and fruity tamarind mocktail, is served on the streets during the warm Easter days.
The architectural wonders of cathedrals in both cities and villages form the perfect backdrop for Easter celebrations.
I remember being in Tuscany during Easter and not being able to enjoy one of its greatest dishes, wild boar, because it was Good Friday.
But this is also the best time to enjoy a traditional Easter cake called colomba di pasqua. Shaped like a dove – the bird which flew to the Biblical character Noah after a global flood, with an olive branch in its beak – the cake is similar to the Christmas panettone studded with candied fruit and almonds.
Egg-cellent tip: Enjoy Italy’s best colomba from Tiri Bakery. It is created with a 60-year-old recipe in the region of Basilicata, where the Cathedral of San Gerardo stands.
Eggs symbolise new life and in the tiny south-western village of Bessieres, people gather with huge paddles in the early morning to cook an omelette with more than 15,000 eggs, a dozen chefs at the helm. In my favourite region, Alsace, Easter markets sell chocolate and gingerbread sweets. For lunch on Easter Sunday, an Easter pate (pate de paques berrichon, right) is served alongside spring lamb.
Egg-cellent tip: For dessert, the French go for either a buttery brioche (mouna) or a “little bird’s nest” cake made of chocolate (petit nids de paques), which I enjoy.
The lively people of Bermuda celebrate Easter on the beach.
The Sargasso Sea, with its sandy pink beaches and blue waves, is a lovely place to gather on Good Friday and fly kites.
The Bermuda kites are structured with a cross, while their flight represents the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday.
After all the fun, families go home and feast on hot cross buns – and these are my favourite when lightly toasted and served with lashings of butter.
Egg-cellent tip: Try another Easter speciality – cod fish cakes.
With 26 cantons in Switzerland, there are myriad Easter traditions to be savoured.
Easter brunch on Sunday after church includes zopf, a buttery brioche usually formed in a twisted braid, but appears as a bunny during Easter. This is served alongside cheese and sausages.
Easter in this chocolate-loving country is extra indulgent with chocolate bunnies. The Swiss queue up at their favourite chocolatiers for marzipan-filled bunnies.
Egg-cellent tip: Ski resorts were the only destinations open during the pandemic and locals – and future tourists – will no doubt travel to Zermatt, where the ski season extends into summer.
•Based in Geneva, the Australia-born writer is the author of Chefs Collective and writes on food, wine and travel.