When you think of Easter, what springs to mind? (pun intended!!) Pretty patterned eggs, or tiny yellow chirping chicks, or maybe fluffy bouncing bunnies, and not forgetting, those cute little lambs?
Yes, there’s no doubting that Easter is intrinsically linked with the arrival of spring; hence all that sweet imagery of baby animals – winter is over and done with, spring is well and truly here – it’s time to party!
Of course, Easter is a religious holiday: it’s a Christian commemoration of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. Although not Easter, the festival of Passover is also celebrated at this time of year – this a Jewish remembrance of being liberated from slavery.
Whilst these religious celebrations have been observed for over 2,000 years, the origins of Easter festivities dates back even further. The very word Easter likely comes from the old Anglo-Saxon festival of Eostre – the goddess of Springtime, when everyone made merry to welcome in new life, new birth and sunshine!
Indeed, Easter is celebrated far and wide in varying ways: take some parts of Greece, where clay pots are thrown out of windows for good luck (look out below!);
then there’s Scandinavia, where a tradition that looks scarily (!) similar to trick or treating ensues.
In Austria, German and Switzerland you will find Easter eggs dangling enticingly from trees ready for children to harvest the sweet bounty. In the US and more recently the UK, Easter egg hunts see children avidly searching around houses and gardens to find their chocolate hit.
On the subject of Easter eggs, it’s only relatively recently that they’ve become chocolate (the late 1800s). Before someone hit on this utterly delicious idea, Easter eggs were simply eggs and decorating them was all part of Easter tradition (which interesting began in the Ukraine).
The cherished bringer of Easter eggs is of course, the Easter Bunny, who benevolently distributes these springtime goodies. This Bunny’s origins can be traced back to Germany; however, these days it’s not usually a Bunny who dishes out the confectionery here, but a fox. Switzerland prefers a cuckoo to drop in with the sweeties; meanwhile in Oz it’ll be a Bilby bearing these edible gifts.
Easter does seem to have its fair share of sugary delights: there’s Simnel cake (a fruit cake made with marzipan from UK and Ireland) and of course, Hot Cross Buns, which were just Hot Buns before Greek Christians adopted them over 2,000 years ago and added a cross. These pastries are believed to bring good luck, being traditionally hung up to ward off evil, or even taken to sea by superstitious sailors to ensure a safe voyage.
Maybe it’s time for a bit of exercise after consuming all those calories? Then join the Easter parade, where you can don some new clothes, bought especially for the occasion (hope they still fit!) and your lovingly decorated Easter bonnet (for which you might even win a prize!)
Whatever Easter means to you, there’s no denying that it’s a great time to look forward to brighter and better days ahead.