A guide to Easter traditions

Written by Caitlin Lyth.

The Easter holidays are fast approaching, and many of us will be looking forwards to spending a bit of a time at home, enjoying some home – cooked food and (hopefully) giving and receiving plenty of chocolate in the form of an egg!

Photo: Adam Wyles, Flickr

Photo: Adam Wyles, Flickr

We have grown up surrounded with these everyday items that, as soon as we enter March, become associated with Easter. Chocolate egg, rabbits and many other things. But what are the basis of these traditions and where did they originate? Strap yourself in, and let us unleash some knowledge on you.

Why are eggs associated with Easter?
Spring, new life, baby chicks, eggs. However, eating eggs during Holy Week (the week leading up to Easter) was banned by the church, so any eggs laid by chickens during that week were saved as a treat until Easter Sunday. Way back in Pagan times, the egg was believed to ward off evil…try waving it at your exam paper and see what happens.

The Victorians were the first ones to make their eggs a bit more decorative. Instead of decorating real eggs they would cover hollowed out cardboard eggs with satin and fill them with Easter gifts.

What about chocolate eggs?
Stuffing your face with chocolate on Easter Sunday is high acceptable, nay, encouraged in society today. Rightly so. But when did we move from painting chicken eggs to eating hollowed chocolate? Apparently, they first started to appear at the beginning of the 1800’s but the chocolate was bitter and gritty. As chocolate making improved, so did the quality – and quantity –  of chocolate eggs made.

The first mass produced chocolate egg was (of course) made by Cadbury’s in 1873 and since then they have been a permanent part of the Easter celebrations.

Why an Easter Bunny?
We see them every year, but why exactly are they a symbol of Easter? Well, the Rabbit – or  the Hare –  was often used as a symbol of the spring due to their…ahem…fertility. So why not use them to symbolise Easter, the holiday that signifies rebirth and new beginnings? This tradition originated in Germany, then spreading to America and throughout the rest of the world.

Why do we take part in Easter Egg hunts?
This has a link to the significance of the Easter bunny. Legend has it that the Easter Bunny would decorate and hide eggs as they also represent new life. To the older children who are still forced to take part in the family egg hunts, it is just a more complicated and stressful way of getting your chocolate. Especially when your little cousins find them before you do. But it is fun for the younger ones, and all in the spirit of Easter!

Why does the date of Easter always change?
Unlike Christmas, the date of which is burned into our minds forever, the date of Easter changes every year. This is due to Christians, who were one of the first to officially celebrate Easter, deciding that Easter Day will always be the Sunday following the first full moon after the first day of spring (around 21 March). So, Easter Sunday can be any time from 22 March to 25 April. It has a nice symbolic meaning, but in terms of remembering when to buy eggs for your family, it is just a pain.

Let us hope that everyone has a happy and safe Easter, with lots of food and some time at home!

 

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