The modern-day celebration of Easter in the UK is a mixture of pagan and Christian traditions with a sprinkling of commercialism.
Easter was originally a pagan celebration of Spring and was named after the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring, Eostre. Later it was adopted by the Christians to mark the crucifixion and rebirth of Jesus.
The holiday’s mixed origins have resulted in some interesting traditions around Easter. Brits gobble down chocolate shaped like eggs and bunnies and play silly games with their families and friends.
Most Easter games include a hard-boiled egg, including the tradition of decorating a chicken’s egg and then rolling it down a hill to see whose cracks first.
Other popular Easter games involve two players holding a hard-boiled egg in the palm of their hand and banging it against their opponent’s egg. The objective is to smash the opponent’s egg.
Egg and spoon races are also popular for children and adults alike. Contestants run a race while balancing a hard-boiled egg on a spoon. The first person to finish the race, without dropping the egg, is the winner.
Easter Egg hunt
In the UK, you can never be too old to take part in the hunt for chocolate Easter Eggs. Someone hides lots of chocolate eggs around a home, garden or park and then contestants race around and try to find as many as possible. Official egg hunts are held in parks and on the grounds of amazing stately homes.
Morris dancing is a traditional English folk dance that dates back to the Middle Ages.
In the dance, men dress up with bells around their ankles and hats that have multi-coloured ribbons. They dance through the streets and clack small sticks together in rhythmn. One man often carries an inflated pigs bladder on the end of a stick. Traditionally, it was his job to run up to young women and hit them over the head with the pigs bladder – this was supposed to be lucky!
Decorating a hat with flowers
An Easter bonnet is a pretty hat adorned with flowers and ribbons. Women used to make them to wear on their wedding day; Easter was once a very popular day to get married. Although the custom of marrying on Easter has fallen out of fashion, Easter bonnets have not. These days, children make bonnets to wear as a symbol of Easter.
Eating 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 sweetened, bread-like buns contain raisins or currants. The baker slashes a cross on the top of the bun before putting it in the oven. Once it’s baked, the cross is filled with a confectioners’ sugar icing.
Eating chocolate eggs
At Easter, painted chicken eggs symbolise springtime and rebirth.
From the early 1800s, artificial eggs were made as gifts for Easter throughout Europe. Solid chocolate eggs also became fashionable in France and Germany around this time. However, the first hollow Easter eggs that most closely resemble what we enjoy today were invented and made in Bristol, by chocolatier J.S Fry & Son, in 1873.
The company eventually merged with Cadbury’s, who launched their first Easter egg in 1875 and went onto design the iconic Cadbury’s Cream Egg.