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12 of the World's Most Impressive Easter Services

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Easter, the most holy of all Christian holidays, is celebrated with special services all over the world. Some of these Easter services may even inspire you to plan a pilgrimage.

1. SALEM CONGREGATION SUNRISE SERVICE // WINSTON-SALEM, NORTH CAROLINA

The Salem Congregation Sunrise Service is the oldest continuous Easter sunrise service in America. It was first held in 1772, in the same manner Moravian churches held the service in Germany since 1732. Now, 245 years later, people come from all over the world to experience Easter sunrise in Winston-Salem. The Church Band, which is made up of around 100 members from all 13 churches of the Salem Congregation of Moravian churches, is used for all outdoor services such as funerals. It assembles at midnight for a breakfast, and then at 2 a.m. they march through the city playing hymns to begin Easter Sunday and to wake everyone for the service. This year's service will begin at 6 a.m. outside the Home Moravian Church for a procession to the Salem Moravian Graveyard, known as God's Acre. The service will be live-streamed at WSJS.com.

2. ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX TEWAHEDO CHURCH // ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA

Dating from the 4th century, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church counts its membership in the tens of millions. Devout adults give up all animal products during a 55-day Lent and then eat or drink nothing at all in the three days before Easter. The Easter (Fasika) service in Addis Ababa, the church's headquarters, is a music- and light-filled celebration that begins on Saturday night. Early on Easter morning, worshippers go home to break their fast. From the church website:

Easter, the feast of feasts, is celebrated with special solemnity. The church is filled with fragrance of incense and myriads of lights. The clergy are arrayed in their best vestments. All the people hold lighted tapers. Greetings are exchanged, drums are beaten, hands are clapped and singing is heard everywhere: "our resurrection has come, hosanna." Men are heard saying "O Lord Christ have mercy upon us." They pray for a blessing, "O God make it to be a festival of our good fortune and of our well being! Let us have another threshing floor and another year if thou wilt."

See an Easter service at the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church in Washington, D.C. here.

3. CATHEDRAL OF CHRIST THE SAVIOUR // MOSCOW, RUSSIA

The Presidential Press and Information Office via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 4.0

The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow is the tallest Orthodox church in the world. Patriarch Kirill, head of all the Russian Orthodox Church, presides over the Easter (Pascha) midnight mass. He begins the mass wearing white vestments, but changes to red before the end of the mass. See pictures from the Easter liturgy here.

4. LINCOLN MEMORIAL SUNRISE SERVICE // WASHINGTON, D.C.

For the past 39 years, the Capital Church of Vienna, Virginia, has led the Easter Sunrise Service at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. This year's service will begin at 6:30 a.m., and the interdenominational event is expected to draw several thousand people. The spectacular view of the sunrise over the Washington Monument is definitely a reason to wake up for the early-morning service.

5. CATHEDRAL OF SAINT MARY OF THE FLOWER // FLORENCE, ITALY

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At the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower (or simply the Duomo, as it's commonly known), Easter mass goes out with a bang. The tradition goes back to the Crusades when three flint stones were brought back to Florence from the Holy Sepulchre. They were used to spark the symbolic new fire at Easter, which is distributed to parishioners for their homes. The cart that carried the fire became more elaborate and was eventually loaded with explosives so that the holy fire would create real fireworks. This became known as Scoppio del Carro, or "explosion of the cart." The parish's love of fireworks entered the Easter morning mass itself in the 16th century when the church began using a rocket, shaped like a dove, as a visual aid to symbolize peace and the Holy Spirit. The holy fire is used to ignite the dove, which travels down a wire from the choir loft to the square outside and ignites the fire delivery cart. The fireworks display lasts for about 20 minutes.

6. HOLY RESURRECTION CATHEDRAL // TOKYO, JAPAN

The Holy Resurrection Cathedral is an Orthodox Church in Tokyo, informally called Nikolai-do after its founder, St. Nicholas Kasatkin. The Easter mass at the cathedral begins Saturday 30 minutes before midnight and runs until about 4 a.m. During that time, the lighting in the cathedral is changed from dark purple to bright white, signifying the resurrection. Food that was eschewed during Lent is brought in to be blessed before the feast that breaks the fast on Easter Sunday. Blessings are given in dozens of languages.

7. MOUNTAINTOP SUNRISE SERVICE // STONE MOUNTAIN, GEORGIA

In 1944, a Methodist church took their youth group to the top of Stone Mountain to watch the sunrise on Easter morning, and a tradition was born. Now the Stone Mountain Sunrise Association conducts an Easter sunrise service every year for thousands of people. The Skyride lift begins operation three hours before the service, and anyone who decides to hike instead is urged to bring flashlights and allow plenty of time. For those who wish to remain at a lower elevation (or don't arrive early enough), a second service at the base of the mountain is held at the same time.

8. SAN AGUSTIN CHURCH // MANILA, PHILIPPINES

San Agustin, a Roman Catholic church in Manila, celebrates Easter with a midnight mass featuring the Salúbong, a pageant that recreates the joyful meeting of Jesus and his mother, Mary, after the resurrection. The drama begins with the procession of statues and includes music and dance. The Salúbong is performed as the sun rises on Easter morning and signifies the end of Holy Week rituals.

9. ZION CHRISTIAN CHURCH // MORIA, SOUTH AFRICA

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Formed in 1910, the Zion Christian Church has between five and eight million members. It is notably one of the largest African-initiated churches, meaning it was not founded by missionaries. The Easter celebration at the church's headquarters in Moria is the largest Christian gathering in South Africa, as millions of ZCC congregants travel to Moria for their annual pilgrimage. The Easter service, which is held outside, is full of music from brass bands and choirs, and includes group dancing and a sermon from the ZCC bishop, currently Bishop Barnabus Lekganyane of the St. Engenas Zion Christian Church.

10. THE CHURCH OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRE // JERUSALEM

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is built over the area identified as Golgotha, where the crucifixion of Jesus took place. Today, the church is under the shared custody of several different Christian sects. The Catholic Easter Vigil service begins on Saturday morning with a Latin liturgy and lasts through to early Sunday. In reality, there are breaks in the service, as Orthodox Christians will be celebrating Easter on the same date and using the church for their Holy Fire ceremony Saturday evening. According to the Orthodox tradition, a blue flame emanates from the tomb of Jesus, which the Patriarch uses to light candles. The fire is then passed to candles held by attendees, who take the holy flame home to places around the world. See pictures of the church's many Holy Week events here.

11. GARDEN TOMB SERVICE // JERUSALEM

Protestant Christians, who are not represented among the custodians of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, often celebrate Easter in Jerusalem at the Garden Tomb, an alternative site considered by some to be the tomb of Jesus. The outdoor garden hosts several Resurrection services: an Arabic service Saturday at 4 p.m., two English services on Sunday at 6:30 and 9:30 a.m., and a Scandinavian service at 11 a.m. You can see pictures of the sunrise service here.

12. ST. PETER'S SQUARE // VATICAN CITY

Sean Brucker via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

So many people travel to Vatican City in Rome for Easter that services are moved from St. Peter's Basilica to the square outside. Pope Francis has a full schedule of masses and blessings during Holy Week, culminating in the biggest crowds for the Easter Vigil and Easter morning mass. The Easter Vigil begins at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Easter Mass is at 10:15 a.m. Sunday, and there will also be a blessing at noon. St. Peter's Square can hold up to 80,000 people (though crowds lining the streets in the past have been estimated to be as big as 150,000), but for an Easter service, you'll need to reserve tickets well in advance.

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10 Regional Twists on Trick-or-Treating
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Walk around any given American neighborhood on the night of October 31, and you’ll likely hear choruses of "trick-or-treat" chiming through the area. The sing-songy phrase is synonymous with Halloween in some parts of the world, but it's not the only way kids get sweets from their neighbors this time of year. From the Philippines to the American Midwest, here are some regional door-to-door traditions you may not have heard of.

1. PANGANGALULUWA // THE PHILIPPINES

Rice cakes wrapped in leaves.
Suman

The earliest form of trick-or-treating on Halloween can be traced back to Europe in the Middle Ages. Kids would don costumes and go door-to-door offering prayers for dead relatives in exchange for snacks called "soul cakes." When the cake was eaten, tradition held that a soul was ferried from purgatory into heaven. Souling has disappeared from Ireland and the UK, but a version of it lives on halfway across the world in the Philippines. During All Saints Day on November 1, Filipino children taking part in Pangangaluluwa will visit local houses and sing hymns for alms. The songs often relate to souls in purgatory, and carolers will play the part of the souls by asking for prayers. Kids are sometimes given rice cakes called suman, a callback to the soul cakes from centuries past.

2. PÃO-POR-DEUS // PORTUGAL

Raw dough.
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Instead of trick-or-treating, kids in Portugal go door-to-door saying pão-por-deus ("bread for god") in exchange for goodies on All Saints Day. Some homeowners give out money or candy, while others offer actual baked goods.

3. HALLOWEEN APPLES // WESTERN CANADA

Kids trick-or-treating.
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If they're not calling out "trick-or-treat" on their neighbors’ doorsteps on Halloween night, you may hear children in western Canada saying "Halloween apples!" The phrase is left over from a time when apples were a common Halloween treat and giving out loose items on the holiday wasn't considered taboo.

4. ST. MARTIN'S DAY // THE NETHERLANDS

The Dutch wait several days after Halloween to do their own take on trick-or-treating. On the night of November 11, St. Martin's Day, children in the Netherlands take to the streets with their homemade lanterns in hand. These lanterns were traditionally carved from beets or turnips, but today they’re most commonly made from paper. And the kids who partake don’t get away with shouting a few words at each home they visit—they’re expected to sing songs to receive their sugary rewards.

5. A PENNY FOR THE GUY // THE UK

Guy Fawkes Night celebration.

Peter Trimming, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

Guy Fawkes Night is seen by some as the English Protestants’ answer to the Catholic holidays associated with Halloween, so it makes sense that it has its own spin on trick-or-treating. November 5 marks the day of Guy Fawkes’s failed assassination attempt on King James as part of the Gunpowder Plot. To celebrate the occasion, children will tour the neighborhood asking for "a penny for the guy." Sometimes they’ll carry pictures of the would-be-assassin which are burned in the bonfires lit later at night.

6. TRICKS FOR TREATS // ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI

Kids knocking on a door in costume.
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If kids in the St. Louis area hope to go home with a full bag of candy on Halloween, they must be willing to tickle some funny bones. Saying "tricks-for-treats" followed by a joke replaces the classic trick-or-treat mantra in this Midwestern city. There’s no criteria for the quality or the subject of the joke, but spooky material (What’s a skeleton’s favorite instrument? The trombone!) earns brownie points.

7. ME DA PARA MI CALAVERITA // MEXICO

Sugar skulls with decoration.
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While Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is completely separate from Halloween, the two holidays share a few things in common. Mexicans celebrate the day by dressing up, eating sweet treats, and in some parts of the country, going house-to-house. Children knocking on doors will say "me da para mi calaverita" or "give me money for my little skull," a reference to the decorated sugar skulls sold in markets at this time of year.

8. HALLOWEEN! // QUEBEC, CANADA

Kids dressed up for Halloween.
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Trick-or-treaters like to keep things simple in the Canadian province of Quebec. In place of the alliterative exclamation, they shout “Halloween!” at each home they visit. Adults local to the area might remember saying "la charité s’il-vous-plaît "(French for “charity, please”) when going door-to-door on Halloween, but this saying has largely fallen out of fashion.

9. SWEET OR SOUR // GERMANY

Little girl trick-or-treating.
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Halloween is only just beginning to gain popularity in Germany. Where it is celebrated, the holiday looks a lot like it does in America, but Germans have managed to inject some local character into their version of trick-or-treat. In exchange for candy, kids sometimes sing out "süß oder saures"—or "sweet and sour" in English.

10. TRIQUI, TRIQUI HALLOWEEN // COLOMBIA

Kids dressed up for Halloween.
Rubí Flórez, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Kids in Colombia anticipate dressing up and prowling the streets on Halloween just as much as kids do in the States. There are a few significant variations on the annual tradition: Instead of visiting private residencies, they're more likely to ask for candy from store owners and the security guards of apartment buildings. And instead of saying trick-or-treat, they recite this Spanish rhyme:

Triqui triqui Halloween
Quiero dulces para mí
Si no hay dulces para mí
Se le crece la naríz

In short, it means that if the grownups don't give the kids the candy they're asking for, their noses will grow. Tricky, tricky indeed

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10 Regional Twists on Trick-or-Treating
Original image
iStock

Walk around any given American neighborhood on the night of October 31, and you’ll likely hear choruses of "trick-or-treat" chiming through the area. The sing-songy phrase is synonymous with Halloween in some parts of the world, but it's not the only way kids get sweets from their neighbors this time of year. From the Philippines to the American Midwest, here are some regional door-to-door traditions you may not have heard of.

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