Has it ever struck you as odd that Easter is represented by a rabbit sitting in a basket of chocolate eggs? For a start, rabbits don’t lay eggs, and furthermore, why are they made of chocolate?
Many of the words associated with Easter are connected to the Northern hemisphere springtime and predate Christianity. The name Easter comes from Eostre, the ancient pagan goddess who represented sunrise, springtime, fertility and new life, long before Christianity reached the shores of the Anglo-Saxon people.
The Spring Equinox was a time of rejoicing, and looking forward to the coming warmer months of summer. The rabbit symbolised new life, because rabbits are so good at procreating. Eggs symbolised new life. Daffodils, in flower in early spring, were used to signify new growth and candles indicated light – the days becoming longer and less gloomy.
These symbols are still used to represent the Christian celebration of the Resurrection. Jesus died but rose from the dead, so new life is still represented with eggs and the candle indicates the light, symbolic of rebirthand renewal. The cross on the hot cross bun is the cross on which Jesus died. The lamb is associated with spring, and is considered to be a symbol of innocence.
In the middle ages, decorating eggs was a common Easter activity. In King Edward I’s palace, eggs were boiled and dyed or covered with gold leaf and distributed to the Royal household.
Artificial eggs were given as gifts in the 17th century. Goldsmith Peter Faberge was commissioned by the Tsar of Russia to make the famous jewelled eggs.
Easter Sunday was the end of the fasting period of Lent, so maybe this is why chocolate eggs became popular. They were first made in Germany and France in the early 19th century.
Nowadays, we celebrate Easter with family gatherings and gifts of chocolate eggs. Children paint hard-boiled eggs, and sometimes have egg-and-spoon races and egg hunts in the garden. Family lunch on Easter Sunday is often roast lamb.
Whether you celebrate Easter in a spiritual sense or as a family get-together, we hope you enjoy the long weekend.