Easter is a significant time in Austria where more than 75 per cent of the population still identifies as Christian – mostly as Catholic. A national holiday is observed each year on Easter Monday.
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Easter is a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. This historic event, although it occurred nearly two thousand years ago, is still relevant to many today.
While there is special focus on Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday, many Catholic Austrians have been preparing themselves for this time weeks before at the beginning of Lent. This word is Latin and means preparation. The preparation refers to a time of people praying and fasting as they consider Jesus’ earthly ministry and His Passion.
The time of Lent ends with Holy Week. Palm Sunday is the beginning of Holy Week where Jesus entered into Jerusalem riding on a donkey. The significance of this was that only kings would ride a donkey into an official city, and Jesus declared at that time that He was a king. Palm branches, various varieties of vegetation or even pussy willows are used to celebrate this event.
There is quite a buildup to the big event of Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday. Masses, Passion plays and many other similar events mark this time. Easter Sunday is seen as a time to have egg bake, attend mass and spend time with family. Sunday evening can be spent with other people who have created bonfires as they dance and sing around the fire.
It is important to keep in mind that Austrians mix secular aspects to this Christian celebration. While many Austrians are Roman Catholic, a number of them do not attend Mass or observe the fasting that is frequently attributed to the time of Lent. Still, many do participate in many Easter activities. Easter eggs are featured heavily in the country. People love to spend time creating and designing Easter eggs of all different kinds of shapes and sizes.