Easter traditions vary among students

Contributed photo: Junior Angela Staszak and her family decorate their dining room table for Easter.Contributed photo: Junior Angela Staszak and her family decorate their dining room table for Easter.

Easter is a major Christian festival which marks the resurrection of Jesus after the crucifixion, and is celebrated throughout the world.

Mercyhurst students were asked how they celebrate Easter. Many will be going home to enjoy a four-day weekend, and celebrate with their families. Some of the popular holiday activities include attending Easter Sunday Mass, and partaking in Easter egg dyeing and Easter egg hunts.

Mercyhurst will hold an Easter Mass at 11 a.m. in Christ the King Chapel for those students who are not able to make it home for the holiday.

“We also encourage students to go to St. Luke’s for other celebrations that are part of this season (Holy Thursday and Good Friday). For those Christians from Protestant backgrounds, we have many good churches within walking distance of campus,” Campus Ministry Director Greg Baker said.

This year will be a significant Holy Week for the Catholic Church because it will be the first Easter for newly appointed Pope Francis.

The Pope started off Holy Week with a Palm Sunday service calling on the crowd to shun corruption and reach out to “the humble, the poor, and the forgotten.” This year Pope Francis will be holding a Holy Thursday service at a youth prison, washing and kissing the feet of prisoners.

“I particularly love the fact that this year Pope Francis is breaking with tradition and celebrating Holy Thursday this way,” said Baker. “What a simple and beautiful reminder that the Easter message is one of love, hope and redemption. Because of Jesus’s resurrection, there is tremendous reason to hope.”

Easter is celebrated by millions around the world, and celebrated with varying traditions based on culture and religious affiliations. We asked students to share with us their Easter plans.

New York

Junior Angela Staszak is from New York and follows Polish traditions. She learned how to make platzec, a Polish dish, at a very young age and goes to an open air market with her family to get a chocolate cross, Polish sausage and a butter lamb.

The day before Easter Staszak and her father take a basket that has been in their family for three generations to get blessed. Staszak said that it is becoming increasingly more difficult to find churches that still do blessings.

“My family has always stuck to these traditions and I believe it is important to continue to pass traditions down through each generation; it makes each holiday more special and meaningful,” Staszak said.


Senior Emma Rishel is from Pennsylvania and is Presbyterian. She celebrates Easter with her family by going to church Sunday morning followed by the whole family joining together for dinner.

“To me, Easter means that spring is here and it is the beginning of new things and a reminder of what God sacrificed for us” said Rishel.

While many of us share similar Easter traditions how is Easter celebrated around the world? We asked some of our international students how they celebrate Easter at home, and what their Easter plans are this year.


Senior Rhona Boyle weighed in on how Easter is celebrated in Ireland.

As a country strongly influenced by Catholicism, Easter is centered around church and time with the family.

“During Lent, Irish children collect the item they have given up, like cookies or sweets, in a big jar and on Easter Sunday, they are allowed to open it and have a feast,” said Boyle. “We also give and receive large Easter eggs, about the size of a melon. Chocolate companies make many different varieties and flavors and children ask for their favorite egg from the Easter Bunny.”

Boyle celebrates with her family by participating in a large-scale Easter egg hunt in the countryside. This year, like the past three years she has been at Mercyhurst, she will celebrate Easter here with friends.


Junior Cariel Lewis shared how Easter is celebrated in Jamaica.

The most common feature of Easter in Jamaica is the eating of the Easter Bun. This is spiced bread with cheese that families share on Easter.

Another Easter festivity is a carnival that begins on Easter Sunday and involves music and dancing in colorful costumes. They also participate in a similar activity to one in the United States, where young children in preparatory schools dress up and collect eggs.

“I think it’s especially important because we are reminded of the endless sacrifices God has made for us,” Lewis said.


Freshman Macarena Aguirre-Estalella explained how Easter is celebrated in Spain.

Over 73 percent of Spain is Catholic and the country has a strong Christian tradition. Many people throughout Spain celebrate every day of the Holy Week leading up to Easter Sunday.
Every day the people of Spain celebrate with daily processions. The processions are accompanied by bands and music, and incense is burned.

“Even non-Christians attend these daily processions,” Aguirre said.

Another tradition that Aguirre shared was one native to her hometown of Valencia, Spain. Children are given cakes in fun shapes (cars, Disney characters, etc.) with a hard boiled egg that has been dyed in the center. Once the children find the egg they are supposed to break the egg on a sibling or cousin’s forehead.

“This time of year is especially significant because we are all together as a family,” Aguirre said.

Aguirre and her family attend Mass every day throughout Holy Week. This year she will be attending Mass on campus and attending a dinner hosted by Mercyhurst Professor Analida Braeger for international students.


Junior Camila Polinori shared Easter traditions in Nicaragua.

Catholicism is the strongest religion throughout Central America, and Easter is celebrated as one of the most commemorative events of the year.
Polinori said Easter is very much a religious holiday in Central America and the commercialized aspects are not celebrated.

“Easter baskets and the Easter Bunny have been so globalized, that you can find them in stores in Nicaragua, but they are far from a common Easter tradition,” Polinori said.
She spends Easter with her family and friends at the beaches in Nicaragua.

Every day throughout the Holy Week, processions through the streets of the city are held and inspired by Biblical passages. Holy Week is a moment of interesting, massive processions, as well as a period of vacation during which diversion and relaxation form the main priorities.

Polinori will be staying on campus this Easter and celebrating with her fellow international students at a meal hosted by one of the Mercyhurst professors.


Junior Daniela Funes explained Holy Week traditions in Honduras.

Honduras also has strong roots in Christianity, and many Hondurans are Roman Catholics. Every day of Holy Week, processions throughout the cities are held to depict the events according to the Bible.
Funes and her family go to the beach for Easter and attend Mass on Sunday.

One Honduran tradition Funes shared was decorative “carpets,” made from layers of colored sawdust, and shaped into religious scenes, which are presented on Good Friday.

Funes will be staying on campus and attend Mass on Sunday followed by a dinner for the international students.

So whether you are from the U.S. or an international country, Easter is a special religious holiday that is celebrated in varying ways.