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EASTER

WHAT DOES EASTER MEAN?

Our word Easter comes from Eostremonath, the Anglo-Saxon word for April, which in turn was named after the Pagan goddess Eostre. Rituals related to Eostre focused on new beginnings, and legend has it that she once found a wounded bird and turned it into a hare that retained its ability to lay eggs. Could that be where the Easter bunny came from?

But Christians celebrated the resurrection of Jesus long before the word Easter was used. They called the celebration Pascha, which comes from the Jewish festival of Passover. Jesus was sharing a Passover meal with his disciples on the day before he died. You can find out more about Passover by clicking here.

WHY DOES THE DATE OF EASTER CHANGE?

Easter is what is known as a moveable feast, because the date changes each year. And it’s all because of the moon! Easter Sunday always falls on the first Sunday following the full moon on or after 21st March. If the full moon falls on a Sunday, then Easter is the following Sunday. Therefore Easter Sunday can fall anywhere between March 22nd and April 25th.

In 2018, the first full moon after the vernal equinox is on 31st March, so Easter Sunday is on 1st April.

WHAT HAPPENS AT EASTER TODAY?

Many churches hold an outdoor sunrise service on Easter Sunday, often on a hillside, so that everyone can watch the sun come up together. Fairlight Church normally holds a service on the Firehills.

Making an Easter garden is another Christian tradition: a stone is placed across the mouth of a tomb before Easter, and then rolled away on Easter Sunday morning.

Churches are often decorated with flowers, a beautiful contrast to the austerity of Lent. The Eucharist or Communion at Easter is a particularly joyful occasion, and many people see Easter as a time for baptism or renewing their baptismal vows. At Guestling Bradshaw (weather permitting) we all walk across the fields for our Easter service at St. Laurence Church, followed by an egg hunt on our return to school.

THE TRADITION OF EASTER EGGS

Before chocolate became popular, birds' eggs were given at Easter, painted in bright colours. Eggs symbolised new life: although they appear empty, like the tomb, birds hatch from them. For Christians, eggs are a reminder that Jesus rose from the grave, and that those who believe will experience everlasting life.

Early Christians stained their eggs red, in memory of the blood Jesus shed. By the Middle Ages, eggs for Easter were brightly coloured, like Spring flowers. In 1290 King Edward I ordered 450 eggs to be gold leafed and coloured to give as gifts.

Pace eggs are hard boiled eggs with patterned shells, given to friends and relatives as a gesture of goodwill. They are made by sticking leaves or flowers onto the shell and then boiling the eggs in water containing onion skins to stain them brown. The name comes from Pesach (Passover).  Popular in the North-East of England, it was customary to jarp with the eggs before eating them - that is to knock your egg against your opponent's, with the idea of breaking it while leaving your own intact (rather like conkers).

Egg rolling is a popular Easter Monday sport. Rules vary, but the winner may be the one that rolls the furthest, survives the longest or reaches a target. It is thought the rolling egg represents the rolling away of the stone from Jesus' tomb.

Easter postcards were first sent in late Victorian times, when a stationer added a greeting to a picture of a rabbit. The cards became very popular.

As chocolate became more widely available, chocolate eggs were produced. These were often brightly coloured, and were originally hollow. In Britain we now buy more than 80 million Easter eggs each year! Many children take part in an egg hunt, when small chocolate eggs are hidden for children to find.

REAL EASTER EGGS

Out of the 80 million Easter eggs sold in this part of the world every year, The Real Easter Egg is the only one which has an Easter story book in the box, is made of Fairtrade chocolate and supports charitable projects.

This year the Easter story-activity book, included in the large milk and dark egg, is A5 in size and has 24 pages. The drawings are beautiful and will delight children and adults. The book is illustrated by award winning artist Martina Peluso and contains the story of the first Easter along with some fun activities. Over its 24 pages, the story covers the final week of the life of Jesus and includes the events of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

The Real Easter Egg was launched in 2010. It was a real struggle as all the supermarkets turned it down at first. It was left to churches and church schools to place orders and fund The Meaningful Chocolate Company to begin making The Real Easter Egg. To date, we have sold more than one million eggs with 750,000 of these sent through the post directly to churches and schools.

Not only has there been an increase in Fairtrade chocolate sales, but nearly £250,000 has been donated to charity as a result. 

EASTER FOOD

After the long winter, and after the restrictions of Lent, Easter Day is associated with special food. Hot cross buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday, marking the end of Lent and representing the crucifixion of Jesus.

Some people have boiled eggs for breakfast on Easter Sunday. Roast lamb (a tradition from Passover) is the traditional meat for lunch. Easter biscuits are a traditional teatime treat, as is Simnel cake, once given on Mothering Sunday, but now often served at Easter. You can find a recipe for Simnel cake on our Mothering Sunday page.

EASTER AROUND THE WORLD

Click here to to find out more about Easter traditions around the world.

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