Chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate with a little bit of chocolate thrown in for good measure.
That seems to sum up the modern view of Easter, let’s face it the chocolate Easter eggs appear on Boxing Day in supermarkets and are usually right next to the discounted selection boxes, so what is Easter really all about?
The origins of Easter go way back to pagan times, long before Christianity. Our ancestors believed that the sun died in winter and was reborn in the spring. The arrival of spring was celebrated all over the world long before religious meaning became associated with Easter.
Our ancestors gave thanks to the gods for returning the sun to warm the world, bring forth life in the form of plants and baby animals and generally help humans stay alive by providing food and warmth. The word ‘Easter’ is thought to come from name of an Anglo-Saxon goddess ‘Eostre’ which was also the ancient name for Spring. Eostre’s sacred animal was a hare and since then rabbits have been associated with Easter. In America the Easter Bunny leaves baskets of chocolate eggs for children who in turn leave carrots out, he has been sighted in the UK although rarely. Try come classic Easter Recipes then carry on and read more about how other cultures celebrate the rebirth of Spring.
In ancient Egypt they held the festival of Isis to celebrate spring and rebirth as river Nile began to rise in the springtime and it was thought that the goddess was in mourning for her partner, Osiris, and the tears that she cried swelled the river.
The ancient Romans celebrated the Feast of Cybele, one of the mother goddesses, one story is that Zeus helped her resurrect her lover Attis and that he is reborn each year in the Spring.
Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus at Easter. Easter moves each year as the date is fixed as the first Sunday after the Full Moon which occurs on or after the Vernal (Spring) Equinox, so it can fall as early as 22 March or as late as 25 April
Eggs, whether they are chocolate or not, are a symbol of continuing life. They are forbidden during lent and are traditionally eaten boiled for breakfast on Easter Day. The first eggs given at Easter were bird’s eggs, they were painted in bright colours and in the 1900s the first chocolate version was developed. They have also grown, so rather than giving a small chocolate egg the size of a bird’s egg they can be found as large as an ostrich egg, it’s a bird after all but not quite what our ancestors had in mind.
Hot cross buns were traditionally eaten at breakfast time, hot from the oven and those baked on Good Friday were supposed to have magical powers and would keep for a year without going mouldy, they would be rock hard but not mouldy.
Simnel cake is another Easter Food, made for Mothering Sunday and decorated with 11 marzipan balls to represent the 11 true disciples of Jesus, not including Judas, it was not allowed to be eaten during Lent so was saved until Easter. Wherever you are in the world and whatever you believe Easter usually marks the beginning of warmer weather, more sunshine and a general feeling of wellbeing and the end of long, dark, cold nights.