Easter is the most important festival in the Christian church year. It begins with Good Friday. The Romans killed Jesus Christ in Jerusalem about two thousand years ago. Christians believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ on the third day after his Crucifixion.
Why is Easter on a different day each year? This is because Easter Sunday is the Sunday after the first full moon after the first day of spring (21 March). Easter eggs, Easter Rabbit (Easter Bunny) and sending Easter cards are tradition not only in Britain. The cards are often in green or yellow or show baby animals, because lots of animals are born in spring. This tradition goes back to the 19th century. But there are also other important traditions.
Holy Thursday/Great Thursday – Maundy Thursday
The Royal Maundy is an ancient ceremony which has its origin in the commandment Christ gave after washing the feet of his disciples on the day before Good Friday. It seems to have been the custom as early as the thirteenth century for members of the royal family to take part in Maundy ceremonies, to distribute money and gifts, and to recall Christ's simple act of humility by washing the feet of the poor. Henry IV began the practice of relating the number of recipients of gifts to the sovereign's age, and as it became the custom of the sovereign to perform the ceremony, the event became known as the Royal Maundy.
A traditional favourite on Good Friday in England, Hot Cross Buns are a spicy currant or raisin studded yeast bun, topped with a ›Cross‹ of lemon flavoured icing. While Christians have adopted the cake and the symbolism of the cross, it wasn't always so. To Pagans then as now, the cross was symbolic of the sun wheel, which symbolizes perfect balance at the time of the Spring Equinox. Hot Cross Buns were probably originally used in ceremonies and rituals and the Christian Church attempted to ban the buns, although they proved too popular. Left with no alternative but defeat, the church did the next best thing and ›Christianized‹ the bread with Queen Elizabeth I passing a law which limited the bun's consumption to proper religious ceremonies, such as Christmas, Easter or funerals.
Hot cross buns, hot cross buns,
one a penny, two a penny,
Hot cross buns.
If you have no daughters,
give them to your sons,
One a penny, two a penny,
Hot cross buns.
This day is often called Easter Saturday which is not correct. Easter Saturday is the Saturday after Easter Sunday.
For Christians Easter Sunday is the high point of the year. They celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Easter eggs are important in Britain, too. They are a symbol of rebirth in most cultures. People decorate them with different colours using special techniques. Children believe that the Easter Rabbit hides the eggs in the garden. Even King Edward I of England made the practice of coloured eggs more famous. He ordered 450 eggs to be coloured for Easter gifts in 1290. People like to bring home a container of Easter water to be used at home for family blessings on persons, house, etc. A traditional food is Roast lamb for dinner on Easter Day.
In some areas ›egg rolling‹ is still popular today. People take the eggs to the top of a hill and roll them down. The first egg to get to the foot of that hill is the winner.
For most British children, Easter means chocolate Easter eggs. The shops are full of bright Easter displays decorated with chicks, rabbits and flowers, all with the objective of selling chocolate eggs in huge numbers. And it works! 90 million chocolate eggs are sold in the UK each year, and each child receives on average eight chocolate eggs. The eggs are sold in cardboard boxes and sometimes there’s more packaging than chocolate! Some people believe that too much chocolate is eaten at Easter time and most doctors and dentists would advise people to eat Easter eggs in moderation.
In the UK, chocolate is definitely the most popular way to enjoy eggs at Easter. But there are some less sugary traditions, too. Chickens’ eggs are painted and decorated to give as presents, and eggs are also hidden for children to find as part of an 'egg hunt'. Some places even hold competitions to see who can roll an egg down a hill without it breaking! Hot cross buns are typical cakes that are made at Easter time. They are like spiced bread rolls with raisins and they always have a cross shape on top. They are delicious served hot with butter.