How do the Brits celebrate Easter?
The modern-day celebration of Easter is a mixture of pagan and Christian traditions with a sprinkling of commercialism. In the beginning, Easter was believed to be 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.
Here we explain the origins of the many traditions observed in the UK from eating chocolate that is in the shape of an egg to Easter egg rolling.
Wearing an Easter bonnet
The tradition of women making special Easter bonnets made from fresh flowers and ribbons is possibly linked to the tradition that Easter was once a popular day to get married. The tradition has evolved and these days children make bonnets to wear as a symbol of Easter.
Easter Egg Rolling
The tradition of decorating a real egg and then rolling it down a hill to see who’s cracks first is a much older tradition in the UK, than scoffing one made of chocolate.
This tradition is still popular in the north of England. In other places an orange replaces the egg and in some places a different game is played whereby two players hold a hard boiled egg in the palm of their hand and bang it against their opponent's egg. The loser is the one whose egg breaks!
Eating chocolate that has been shaped into eggs and bunnies
Firstly, the eating of chocolate has nothing to do with Easter but the tradition evolved from the giving of real eggs, usually chicken eggs, that were hard-boiled and then painted in colours that represented spring.
From the early 1800s artificial eggs were made as gifts for Easter throughout Europe. The tradition of creating an Easter egg from solid chocolate became fashionable in both Germany and France around this time too. 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.
Image courtesy of Boris Tassev
Eating Hot Cross Buns
A Hot Cross Bun is a yeasted sweet bun that's lightly spiced and studded with raisins or currants, then marked on top with a cross. It is believed that the cross represents the crucifixion of Jesus.
These day’s hot cross buns are available all year around but during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I hot cross buns could only be sold on Good Friday, making them a delicacy.
Easter Egg hunts
Whether you are 19 or 90 the Easter egg hunt is a fun part of this festival. The basic rules are someone hides chocolate in the form of chocolate bunnies and eggs and the other participants run around trying to find them.
The origins of this tradition comes from folklore and it is believed that the story originates from the USA during the 1700s when the Pennsylvania Dutch believed in an egg-laying hare called Oschter Haws. The children were encouraged to build nests for it to lay its eggs in.
The National Trust is organising 250 Ester Egg hunts in some gorgeous locations, so be sure to find one near you.
Brits are not known for their dancing skills but we’ll have a go as Morris dancers demonstrate. This ancient form of folk dancing is when a group perform a choreographed dance, often accompanied with sticks, swords, handkerchiefs and bells. The origins of this dance go back to the 15th century and are believed to be a celebration of spring.