Why do we celebrate Easter? Reason for Good Friday and Easter Monday celebrations and chocolate egg traditions

Many of the customs and traditions we will enjoy over the Easter weekend are founded in religion

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Easter is a time of year associated with new beginnings, delicious food and indulgence, and also rest as it’s a four-day bank holiday.

It is also an important Christian festival which takes place annually. Every year, whether we are religious or not, we enjoy eating chocolate eggs and hot cross buns, and enjoy making bonnets and other seasonal crafts and activities. But, have you ever considered why we do these things? Here’s everything you need to know about the origins of Easter and the meaning behind the food we eat.

What are the religious origins of Easter?

Easter is an important festival in the Christian calendar. According to the Easter story, the four-day Easter weekend tells the story of the resurrection and ascension of Jesus.

On the day we now know as Good Friday, Jesus was crucified on the cross because the Roman emperor Pontius Pilate did not like his teachings about God, his father. The next day, Easter Saturday, commemorates the day that Jesus lay in the tomb after his death, according to the Bible.

On Easter Sunday, which is also known as Resurrection Sunday, Jesus Christ rose from the dead. This day is considered the most significant in the Christian church’s calendar, as it is believed that on this day Jesus was resurrected. On Easter Monday, Jesus began 40 days on earth before he ascended to heaven to be with God.

Where does Easter get its name from?

Like many major holidays that have evolved over hundreds of years, it’s not known exactly where the name Easter comes from. One theory is that the name comes from the ancient pagan festival of Eostre, which some believe is where the celebration of Easter began as it came before the advent of Christianity itself. Eostre is the Germanic goddess of dawn who is celebrated during the spring equinox.

These are the reasons behind the customs we carry out and the food we enjoy over the Easter weekend.These are the reasons behind the customs we carry out and the food we enjoy over the Easter weekend.
These are the reasons behind the customs we carry out and the food we enjoy over the Easter weekend.

Other historians believe that the name Easter comes from the Latin phrase in albis, which means alba or dawn. That word became “eostarum” in old high German, which was a precursor to the English language we know today.

Why do we have different Easter traditions?

Easter is associated with many traditions, including Easter eggs, the Easter bunny, hot cross buns, and Easter bonnets - but where do these traditions come from?

The Easter bunny and Easter eggs

There are multiple theories about where the Easter bunny came from too, but it is thought that the tradition of the rabbit links to other customs we love now including Easter eggs. Some believe the rabbit is also linked to Eostre, the Germanic goddess of dawn. She is also the goddess of fertility and spring, and her animal symbol is believed to have been a rabbit which is the traditional symbol of fertility.

In America, some people believe the Easter bunny was first introduced in the 1700s by German immigrants in Pennsylvania.

It is said that they introduced their tradition of the egg-laying hare to the community.

The hare would lay colourful eggs as gifts to well-behaved children, and in time the gifts then came to include treats such as toys and chocolate.

In Germany, the tradition of the Easter bunny is believed to have originated among German Protestants around the 1600s.

Their rabbit would also reward well behaved children with an Easter egg hunt. For Christians, an egg is an important Easter symbol as it represents the moment that Jesus emerged from the tomb following his crucifixion and subsequent resurrection.

The first chocolate eggs are said to have been created in France and Germany in the 19th Century - but they were not like the sweet treats we know today, instead they were bitter and hard. Over time, chocolate-making techniques have improved, and so have the ingredients available, and so the hollow eggs we know and love were created.

Hot cross buns and fish

Hot cross buns are traditionally eaten over the Easter as Christians believe they symbolise the crucifixion of Jesus on the cross on Good Friday. Traditionally, each bun is decorated with a cross made from flour paste, which is said to represent the cross on which the Son of God died.

The spices in hot cross buns are also said to represent the spices that were used to embalm Jesus after his death.

Each year hot cross buns are also available in multiple different flavours, both savoury and sweet. These flavours are not linked to religion, but have been developed to suit different tastes, although the cross design always remains.

It’s also a tradition to eat fish rather than meat on this day. According to Christians, Jesus sacrificed his flesh on Good Friday and so people do not eat meat on that day. Fish, however, is viewed as a different kind of flesh and so that’s why Christians choose to eat it instead.

Easter bonnet and Easter parade

The Easter bonnet is a popular type of clothing associated with this time of year. It is in-keeping with a Christian tradition of wearing new clothes at Easter to symbolise the new life and new beginnings which are said to happen during this time because of the spring equinox.

The word bonnet is used rather than hat, as it refers to the type of headwear that was popular at the time.

It was in the 1870s that the custom of Easter bonnets became popular due to the New York City Easter Parade. The Easter parade grew in popularity over time, and in 1948 a film called Easter Parade starring Fred Astaire and Julie Garland was released. The film centres around a love story that blossoms at Easter and ends with them attending an Easter parade.

As with a lot of big American trends, the custom of the Easter parade made its way over to the UK.

Today, the New York Easter parade still takes place. People walk down Fifth Avenue, a major thoroughfare in the borough of Manhattan, in Easter-themed outfits and bonnets. An Easter parade on that scale isn’t held in the UK, but many local communities and schools hold their own events where they encourage children and adults alike to make their own bonnets.

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