Easter began as a pagan festival celebrating the vernal (or spring) equinox but since the second century, for Christians, Easter was the time to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Many of the traditions we celebrate today at Easter are pagan. The goddess of dawn and fertility, Eostre, was often represented by the hare which gives the link to the Easter Bunny. The festival of Eostre always took place around the vernal equinox and Christian missionaries in Europe gradually combined the festival's name, timing, and even some pagan traditions with Christian practices giving us the Easter we know today.
Easter is classed as the most important date in the Christian calendar as it commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ, three days after his crucifixion. Easter Sunday not only marks the resurrection but also rebirth in other forms such as longer days and the blooming of spring flowers after the long dark winter.
Early Christians called Christ's resurrection "Pesach," the Hebrew word for Passover; derived from that word, Easter is known as "Pâques" in French, "Pascua de Resurrección" in Spanish, "Pasqua" in Italian, and "Pask" in Swedish. The English word, Easter comes from goddess Eostre (or the goddess Oster –which is the German word for Easter).
Unlike Christmas Day, which always falls on 25th December every year, Easter Sunday falls on a different day each year; it must fall within the period 22nd March to 25th April and occurs on the first Sunday after the Paschal full moon, the first full moon following the vernal equinox that signals the start of spring.
This year, 2021, the vernal equinox falls on 20th March, the first full moon after this date is 28th March so Easter Day falls on 4th April.
Although the Coronavirus restrictions are lifting gradually, we won’t be able to celebrate Easter how we would like but we can still make it a special and enjoyable occasion, after all we need some cheer in these times of uncertainty and weariness. There’s still time to plan and prepare so here are some ideas:
SEND EASTER CARDS TO THOSE YOU CAN’T BE WITH
MAKE A WELCOMING EASTER DOOR WREATH
Door wreaths don’t have to be saved for Christmas so why not hang a welcoming door wreath on your front door.
You can buy a ready made Easter Wreath or make one using a plain wooden wreath, or this paler wreath adding some decorative Easter ribbons , Easter egg decorations , bunny decorations glued on using a glue gun. For a modern twist you could use woollen pom-poms or make your own using a pom-pom making kit another way to keep children happy or spend a creative hour or two.
Eggs are linked to pagan traditions, as an ancient symbol of new life and the beginning of spring. For many ancient cultures, such as the Greeks and Egyptians, eggs were seen as a sign of fertility and new life; eggs were used in religious rituals and pagan temples were decorated with eggs for mystical reasons. Eggs were decorated with colour – yellow signifies the resurrection, blue is for love and red for the blood of Christ. Some eggs were decorated with religious scenes and the finder of the egg was to retell the Bible story depicted.
Painted wooden eggs are quite easy to make and the children will love to help; they’ll last for years too!
All you need are some plain wooden eggs, some paints and brushes. Once they are dry, pop a few in a bowl with Choc chicks , foil covered eggs mixed in then place them around the house or on an Easter display.
Whilst you have the paint out, you could also make some cut out Easter shaped decorations to add to a door wreath or hang on an Easter tree.
DECORATE AN EASTER TREE
Decorated trees aren’t just for Christmas; in many European countries, egg-decorated trees and plants have been used for centuries as a symbol of spring’s arrival.
The Easter Egg Tree, or "Osterbaum," is believed to have originated in Germany. More recently, a German couple Christa and Volker Kraft became famous for their tree, which they started decorating in 1965 with just 18 egg ornaments; by 2015, their tree was adorned with 10,000 decorated eggs and it took a fortnight to add the decorations!
Easter trees tend to be smaller than Christmas trees, and are covered with decorations celebrating spring and Easter with pastel hues or lively floral patterns. You can buy a ready made Easter tree such as this Pre-Lit Easter Tree with Decorations
However, it’s quite easy to make your own, starting with a bare pre-lit tree, on which you can hang homemade decorations: quite easy to make, using paint and paintbrushes and pre-cut wooden Easter shapes, then threaded with ribbon to hang on the branches.
Your tree doesn't have to be quite so elaborate—you can make a lovely arrangement or centrepiece with few branches of blossom from the garden or some artificial blossom branches or artificial bare branches with some tiny fairy lights wrapped round them, arranged in a tall vase (pebbles may be useful to steady the vase and to keep the stems in place)
MAKE AN EASTER DISPLAY
The tree or arrangement could take centre stage on a table draped with a Spring/Easter themed tablecloth, decorated with Easter lights, Easter bunting, a vase filled with tulips. Place a few pots of spring flowers such as narcissus, that can be planted in the garden after Easter, pretty votive candles in votive holders and finally, some plates piled with mini chocolate eggs and Chocolate Bunnies dotted in between. Don’t forget some Easter serviettes for those sticky fingers!
WATCH THE EASTER SUNRISE
Pagans worshipped at dawn on Easter day. Christians often attend a dawn service , as it was at dawn on Easter morning that Mary opened Jesus's tomb to find him gone. This tradition of sunrise Easter service dates back to 1732, when the first service was held in Germany by a few men from the Moravian Church at the town's graveyard, the following year the entire congregation joined in. Some forty years later the first sunrise service for Easter was held in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
This year a gathering of worshippers won’t be possible, but if you rise early there’s no reason why you can’t pray, meditate or collect you thoughts in your own home, garden or balcony.
GIVE CHOCOLATE EGGS AS GIFTS
Exchanging chocolates and other sweets during Easter gained popularity in Europe during the mid-19th century, as confectionary companies found the way to mass produce, They created and sold delicious sweets and chocolates in fancy shapes and packaging just as they do today. Which child doesn’t look forward to Easter, a long school holiday and a chocolate egg or two; there are so many to choose from and these won’t disappoint:
For a gift that’s a little different and more luxurious, take a look at these (or treat yourself):
Martin’s Chocolatier Luxury Easter Chocolate Assortment
HAVE A GARDEN EASTER EGG HUNT
Hide eggs around your house and garden for the little ones to find but make sure dogs or puppies don’t get to them first! These packs will help save time but you can by bags of eggs in supermarkets:
or a nice family film, or prizes such as being able to stay up later, spend more time on their game or screen and maybe chocolate for breakfast! Much better if they can run round in the fresh air but wherever it is, it’ll make a change!
ENJOY A SLICE OF SIMNEL CAKE
Simnel cake is similar to a Christmas cake, but eaten during the Easter period and is made up of two layers of light fruit cake sandwiched with and covered with a layer of marzipan. Simnel cakes are also decorated with eleven balls of marzipan, representing Jesus’ twelve disciples, excluding Judas. You can buy a ready made Simnel Cake and some supermarkets sell whole Simnel Cakes, Simnel cake slices or bitesize pieces which may be more suitable if you’re the only one in the house or that likes marzipan! Alternatively, there are plenty of recipes available if you fancy a creative afternoon in the kitchen. When you have your Simnel cake, place it on a cake stand or cake board and finish off with an Easter cake ribbon .
MAKE EASY EASTER TREATS
Make Easter nests with melted chocolate (you could use easter egg chocolate if you have too much!) and cornflakes or other cereal from the cupboard, decorate with mini eggs and cute chick decorations.
TOAST A HOT CROSS BUN OR TWO
Hot cross buns are an ancient tradition and reference was made to them in the Old Testament. According to Wikipedia, there is a theory is that the Hot Cross Bun originates from St Albans Abbey, in 14th century England, where Brother Thomas Rodcliffe, created a recipe for the 'Alban Bun' which was baked and distributed to the local poor on Good Friday; I remember as a child we never saw Hot Cross Buns until Good Friday and my Dad would make the annual trip to the bakery to buy them. They were a special treat but these days they can be enjoyed year round. As well as the traditional recipe that is decorated with a cross to represent the crucifix, supermarkets create different recipes such as orange & cranberry, salted caramel, extremely chocolatey, and blueberry. I love them all and prefer them toasted but doubt I’ll ever taste the Marmite version, let alone enjoy it! I even came across a recipe for Hot Cross Bun Bread and butter pudding – I did make it once and it went down well with my family.
PLANT OR GROW SOMETHING
Many traditions around Easter celebrate new life and new beginnings. As the days become lighter and longer and we look forward to the warmer, summer months , the long weekend is a great opportunity to grow some new plants. Some garden centres have an online shop with a delivery service so you could help them as well as make some additions to your home ,garden, balcony or allotment. I have a plant wish-list and intend to have these planted and growing in my garden very soon: fritillaries , these double snowdrops and a clematis to grow through an unruly juniper shrub. I’ll sew a wildflower border and do my bit by attracting bees and butterflies to the garden! Gardening for me is the perfect antidote to my work which entail hours at a computer so this Easter weekend will be a good break from that.
ENJOY AN EASTER SUNDAY LUNCH OR DINNER
Many of us have given up something for Lent’s 40 days such as alcohol, chocolate, television, social media or smoking. Now Lent is over, it is tempting to undo all the good works which would be a shame – why not just relax a little instead. For Easter Sunday, a traditional Sunday roast will do just fine but you could ring the changes with turkey or lamb and all the trimmings.
GO EASTER EGG ROLLING ON EASTER MONDAY
When I was a child, and although we weren’t religious, it was a family tradition to go to the local park and roll our Easter eggs down the slope emulating the moving the boulder that sealed Jesus’ tomb.
There is a similar tradition that is often shown on the Easter news bulletins - the White House Easter Egg Roll, dating back to 1878, when President Rutherford B. Hayes opened the White House lawn after being asked by children as he took one of his daily walks. This year, we have to be mindful of the rules regarding social distancing.
However you spend your Easter weekend and whether you’re with close family or alone, I hope it’ll be made more enjoyable by trying out some of the ideas and treats above.
Wishing you all Happy Easter and an enjoyable long weekend!
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