Despite the 25% drop in proclaiming oneself Catholic since the 1970s, Brazil boasts the largest Roman Catholic population in the world (with 123 million followers). Easter, as one of the main Catholic holidays, is therefore largely celebrated in a land that also happens to host one of the wildest parties in the world (you know the one).
Easter, or Páscoa in Portuguese, falls on the day after the culmination of Holy Week, which also marks the end of Lent. Since many institutions and businesses allow for an extended weekend, many Brazilians spend the holiday either traveling for the sake of traveling (and to witness religious processions such as the one in Ouro Preto) or spending the time with family.
Aside from merely passing the weekend with loved ones, it’s a popular custom to give gifts of large chocolate eggs, either filled with candy or hollow inside.
The tradition in its most basic form goes back to several longstanding or ancient cultures, where the egg, especially a decorated one, is associated with the new life and fertility. Also, it’s important to note that Lent is known as being a time of refraining from dairy, and eggs fall into that category, so it makes sense that eggs are to be eaten before and right after Lent. The chocolate aspect is said to have been added by the French, whose culture heavily influenced that of Brazil in centuries gone by.
Aside from the relaxing and the traveling, Brazilians also spend the long weekend attending religious processions, rituals, plays, and, of course, mass.
Far from the crowds, though, Easter lunch at home with the family is also an important aspect of the holiday (and a good way to balance the consumption of lots of chocolate).
While not a Brazilian tradition, per se, I’d like to leave you with a simple how-to video on turning a table napkin into a bunny. Feliz Páscoa!