Easter is a time for indulgence, but do you know how the tradition came about?
Originally the festival was celebrated by pagans and called Eastre. When the Christians came to convert the pagans they had to ensure their holy days coincided with pagan feast days. Soon the festival of Eastre – which celebrated spring and new life – was changed to represent the resurrection of Christ.
A lot of the traditions we know today come from the day’s pagan roots. Rabbits, eggs and chicks all symbolised new life and the return of spring. Some of these were also used for Christian symbolism later on. For example, the egg now symbolises resurrection and the shape of the stone that covered Jesus’ tomb.
The first mention of the Easter bunny was in the 1600s in south west Germany. But rabbits have always been a big part of Easter as they represent spring and fertility.
Children would make nests out of their caps and bonnets and leave them for the Easter bunny, the next morning they would be filled with coloured eggs.
These coloured eggs were most often painted hen, duck or goose eggs, but soon fake Easter eggs were made to be given as gifts on Easter Sunday. These fake eggs – usually made out of cardboard – would contain sweets and chocolate.
The tradition of Easter is now commercially focused on the indulgence of chocolate, even though this is a relatively new thing. The first chocolate eggs were made in the early 1800s, but the chocolate making process made it difficult to make anything but solid eggs.
About 100 years later the chocolate making process had improved so greatly that hollow eggs were beginning to be mass-produced. They soon became the most popular gift to give at Easter. By the 1960s they were established gifts worldwide.
The tradition of the Easter egg hunt comes from the tale of the Easter bunny hiding eggs for children to find. These could be real eggs decorated the previous day or chocolate eggs. Often there are prizes for the most eggs collected.
Another tradition that takes place mainly in the north of England is egg-tapping. Contestants have a hard-boiled egg each. They then tap their eggs against one another and the person who has the last intact egg is the winner. These egg-tapping contests also take place across Europe.
We’d be interested to know what you do for Easter. I remember when I was a child I was always jealous that my sister, who was five years older than me, used to get bigger chocolate eggs. So, to make up for it I used to sneak into her room and break chunks off her already opened eggs and eat them.
Why not post a comment and let me know what you’ll be doing this Easter.
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