Thursday, 14 April 2011
Easter in the UK
In the UK Easter is one of the major Christian festivals of the year. It is full of customs, folklore and traditional food. However, Easter in Britain has its beginnings long before the arrival of Christianity. Many theologians believe Easter itself is named after the Anglo-Saxon goddess of the dawn and spring - Eostre.
Symbols of Easter- Many of the symbols and traditions of Easter are connected with renewal, birth, good luck and fertility.
The Cross- Of course as it is a Christian festival one of the main symbols is a cross, often on a hill. When Jesus was crucified, the cross became a symbol of suffering. Then with the resurrection, Christians saw it as a symbol of victory over death.
Palms- The week of Easter begins on Palm Sunday. Why Palm Sunday? Well, in Roman times it was customary to welcome royalty by waving palm branches, a bit like a ticker-tape parade. So, when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem on what is now known as Palm Sunday, people welcomed him with palm branches carpeting the streets and waving them. Today, on Palm Sunday, Christians carry palm branches in parades, and make them into crosses and garlands to decorate the Church.
Easter Eggs- Easter eggs are a very old tradition going to a time before Christianity. Eggs after all are a symbol of spring and new life. Exchanging and eating Easter eggs is a popular custom in many countries. In the UK before they were replaced by chocolate Easter eggs real eggs were used, in most cases, chicken eggs. The eggs were hard-boiled and dyed in various colors and patterns. The traditionally bright colours represented spring and light. An older more traditional game is one in which real eggs are rolled against one another or down a hill. The owner of the egg that stayed uncracked the longest won. Even today in the north of England, for example as at Preston in Lancashire, they still carry out the custom of egg rolling. Hard boiled eggs are rolled down slopes to see whose egg goes furthest. In other places another game is played. You hold an egg in the palm of the hand and bang against your opponent's egg. The loser is the one whose egg breaks first. Nowadays people give each other Easter eggs made of chocolate, usually hollow and filled with sweets. ritain children hunt for (chocolate) Easter eggs hidden about the home or garden by the Easter bunny.
The Easter Bunny- Rabbits, due to their fecund nature, have always been a symbol of fertility.The Easter bunny (rabbit) however may actually be an Easter hare. The hare was allegedly a companion of the ancient Moon goddess and of Eostre. Strangely the bunny as an Easter symbol seems to have its origins in Germany, where it was first mentioned in German writings in the 16th Century. The first edible Easter bunnies appeared in Germany during the early 1800s, they were made of pastry and sugar.In the UK children believe that if they are good the "Easter Bunny " will leave (chocolate) eggs for them.
Hot Cross Buns- Hot cross buns, now eaten throughout the Easter season, were first baked in England to be served on Good Friday. These small, lightly sweet yeast buns contain raisins or currants and sometimes chopped candied fruit. Before baking, a cross is slashed in the top of the bun. After baking, a confectioners' sugar icing is used to fill the cross.