THINK Easter, and chocolate eggs and bunnies are likely to spring to mind. While for many Brits the holiday is an excuse to scoff until the cows come home, there are plenty of places where historic and religious traditions add an extra element to an Easter break.
Countries such as Mexico and Italy mark Christ’s death and resurrection with lively public parades and festivities that have changed little over centuries. These could appeal to clients with an interest in Easter as a christian celebration. Elsewhere, from the US to the UK you’ll find events with a more secular slant.
As it’s a school holiday, prices can be high over Easter, but booking early could help save pennies and guarantee holiday-makers get what they want.
Whether your client is looking for a good-value family break or just a holiday with a difference, Travel Weekly takes a look at some of the best places to head for Easter fun.
The tradition:Easter’s a big deal in Roman Catholic Mexico – colourful parades and long-lived rituals take place in almost every town and village throughout Holy Week, or Semana Santa. From processions on Palm Sunday to passion plays on Good Friday, tourists will witness a whole array of sights and celebrations. Paper effigies of Judas Iscariot and other unsavoury characters are sometimes burned on Holy Saturday, accompanied by firework displays.
Key selling point:major resorts can get booked up well in advance by the Mexicans, but this is a good time to visit some of the large urban areas such as Mexico City, Monterrey and Guadalajara, which are less crowded over the Easter break.
Who would it suit? Couples or groups looking for adventure.
Sample product: Journey Latin America offers a seven-night tailor-made holiday to Mexico over Easter, including time in Mexico City and colonial Puebla, from £1,173 per person, including flights, some meals and some excursions.
The tradition: quirky Easter events take place across the country, and include the Victorian tradition of egg dancing at Blists Hill Victorian Town, Ironbridge Gorge, Shropshire, from April 14 to 16. Participants are blindfolded and then dance across a street, trying to avoid eggs placed in their path. Activity workshops run from April 8 to 16. Continuing the egg theme, a traditional egg-rolling ceremony takes place on the slopes of Butser Hill in Waterlooville, Hampshire on April 17, with egg-decorating workshops for kids in the visitor centre.
Key selling point: there’s no need to leave the country and it’s generally cheaper than heading abroad. On the border with Wales, Shropshire is a picturesque county of wooded valleys, rivers and rolling hills, dotted with medieval town and castles, with plenty to do for children.
Who would it suit?Families looking for Easter tradition without the hassle of flying.
Sample product: Superbreak is offering a £10 discount per person per night at four-star Swallow Buckatree Hall in Telford, Shropshire. One night costs £40 per person with breakfast.
The tradition:Easter’s more important than Christmas in the Greek Orthodox Church, and holidaymakers are welcome to join in celebrations across the country, taking place this year between April 21 and 24. There are candle-lit parades at midnight on Good Friday, with fireworks to follow. Outdoor feasts take place on Easter Sunday, with lambs roasted on spits in the street, and wine shared with passers-by. Eggs feature too – hard boiled and painted red – family members knock them together and the person with the last egg to break wins. Traditions vary from region to region: in Corfu on Easter Day, ceramic jars full of water are thrown from balconies to celebrate and houses are decorated with colourful tapestries; while in Loutro, a hamlet in Crete, an effigy of Judas is burned on the beach.
Key selling point: late April is a great time to visit Greece – the weather’s warm and the countryside is a mass of flowers.
Who would it suit?Couples or families seeking Easter tradition and some early-season sun.
Sample product:Sunvil Greece offers a week in Loutro in Crete at the Porto Loutro Hotel, departing on April 18, from £509 per person, based on two sharing, with flights and transfers.
The tradition: chocolate eggs and Easter bunnies have their part to play, but different states have their own ways of celebrating. Lent kicks off with Mardi Gras in New Orleans, then over Easter weekend New York’s the place to be. The annual Easter Sunday Parade on 5th Avenue, from 49th to 57th Street, sees people from around the world dressed in anything from the historic to the outrageous – think birds in bonnets of real flowers. It all dates back to the mid-1800s, when the social elite would attend church services and strut down 5th Avenue to show off their new hats and dresses. Head to St Patrick’s Cathedral for the best views. Over on Hawaii’s Big Island the annual Merrie Monarch Festival, a celebration of hula, takes place over Easter.
Key selling point: spring’s a great time to be in New York and there will still be plenty of time for some retail therapy – most shops are open for business, except on Easter Sunday.
Who would it suit?Couples combining a city break with an extra element of fun.
Sample product:North American Travel Service offers four nights at the New York Hilton, departing on April 13, from £678 per person, including flights.
Tradition:Spain’s alive with festivities over Easter. Music-lovers should head to Cuenca during Holy Week for the annual Festival of Religious Music, held in the Church of San Miguel, with performances from orchestras and choirs from around the world. The town hosts a dawn procession on Good Friday with marchers re-enacting Christ being scorned on his way to Calvary. The region of Andalucia, and particularly Seville, is also known for its historic Semana Santa celebrations. Vibrant parades, incense, music and feasting seem to bombard the senses at every turn. A real must-do event.
Key selling point: it’s not far to fly, it’s good value and the weather’s likely to be much warmer than in the UK.
Who would it suit? Anyone interested in the history and pageantry of Easter.
Sample product: four nights at the three-star Catalonia Hispalis in Seville, departing April 13, lead in from £427 per person, for bed and breakfast, including flights and transfers with Mundi Color.
By Jane Dunford