Spring is one of the most beautiful seasons of the year. Everything looks greener, the flowers bloom in vivid colours, the weather gets better and everyone seems a bit happier. Another reason to be grateful that spring is upon us is the fact it brings with it the Easter holidays. Easter with its bunnies, whom present us with Easter eggs is a fairytale holiday that sparks the imagination of so may children around the world. But, in reallity what is Easter? Well, in the UK, it is mainly a joyful family time where people celebrate the rebirth of Jesus.
Curiosities about Easter
In the seventh century, an Anglo-Saxon historian of England called Bede developed a theory to explain why this time of the year is called ‘Easter’. According to him, this name comes from an Anglo-Saxon goddess called Eostre – she is the goddess of fertility and spring and was celebrated for being so around the vernal equinox.
Regardless of the accuracy of this theory, there’s obviously some truth around the origins of the english name. In other languages the name of this holiday is a derivation of the Jewish ‘Passover’ holiday, with the Hebrew name of Pesach and in Portuguese for instance her name is Páscoa.
This religious holiday has different meanings to all. To non religious people it is a lovely time of the year spent with family because the holiday brings some well deserved days off work. Christians on the other hand believe in the holy significance of these days. The special meaning of this festive season is related to the resurrection of Jesus, said to have happened on the third day after his burial following his crucifixion. one thing is for sure it is a great time for some extra chocolate treats or some fun easter egg hunts with the kids.
If you are wondering why this holiday falls on a different date from one year to the next, the explanation relies on the fact that Easter, is always celebrated on the first Sunday after the first Full Moon or after March equinox. According to our calendars, this has always been a Sunday between the 22nd of March and the 25th of April.
Some traditions are less common and seem to have been left behind in history although England still has a few special traditions which are common and adaptations of these can be witnessed around the globe. This is true in the case of the Morris Dance, this quirky celebration is one the most interesting and consists of a performance of a traditional folk dance, where people dress up with bonnet hats, clogs, bells and ribbons. These rituals can also witnessed in the U.S.A, Canada, and Australia.
Another of the most common traditions is the easter egg hunt, often organised by and for children. The idea is to creatively adorn some eggs, which will then be hidden somewhere (usually a garden) so children can play around trying to find them filling up their baskets with eggs.
Here’s where the fairytale of Easter begins. According to sources the easter bunny first arrived in America in the 1700s with German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania. They brought with them their tradition of children making nests for an egg laying hare called Osterhase. The hare would then lay colourful eggs in the nest created by the children. Similar to the story of Father Christmas, the custom spread across the U.S and as a result the Easter Bunny is now a common symbol of this season.
Another less known tradition of this season in England, dates back to the reign of King Edward I. During this season, two deserving senior citizens were chosen for having done good service to their community. During a formal ceremony, the Queen handed them a red and a white purse, represeting the distribution of Maundy Money. In the white purse there would be one coin for each year of the monarch’s reign. While in the red purse would have been money and other gifts that were to be given to the poor.
Good Friday – Hot Cross Buns
Another much loved and long lasting tradition, is the special consumption of Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday. Dating back to the 12th century, these spicy currant or raisin studded yeast buns topped with a symbol of a cross, of lemon flavoured icing have become a sweet icon of easter. To some people the hot cross bun represents the sun wheel, which symbolizes the perfect balance at the time of the Spring Equinox.
Back in history, they became so popular that their consumption over Easter meant that there were too few hot cross buns to go around. Seen as an important part of easter, the Christian Church ‘Christianized’ the bread with Queen Elizabeth I, who in tern passed a law limiting the bun’s consumption to proper religious ceremonies to ensure the ingredients to make them would never again run out. Nowadays there isn’t the need to restrict them to religious ceremonies only, and people love to have them any time of the year, with an extra special amount produced for consumption over the Easter break.
For Christians Easter Sunday is the high point of the year. Easter Day is reserved to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. There isn’t such a thing as Easter Saturday, instead the Saturday before Easter Sunday is Holy Saturday. The day following Easter Sunday is Easter Monday.
Churches for Easter Sunday services are filled with flowers, a symbol of new life and some people like to bring home a container of Easter (holy) water to be used at home for family blessings on their respective households and the house itself. Whilst on Easter Monday, traditions of a solemn remembrance of Christs death is upheld by christians. Of less religious people the traditions of Easter egg-rolling take place on this day too.