Popular Easter Traditions
The history behind common Easter Traditions
Easter, along with Christmas are the most important celebrations of the Christian Religion. Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus, whereas Easter is a celebration remembering the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Around Easter Time, Jesus was killed, buried and then after 3 days, he rose from the dead and his followers found an empty tomb. Christians celebrate Easter in various ways, including Lent and Shrove Tuesday. Along the way, Pagan traditions have been incorporated into the festival including Easter Egg Hunts and the tradition of the Easter Bunny.
When is Easter?
Before the Council of Nicea in 325 AD, Easter was celebrated on various days of the week, sometime in the Spring. However, at the Council of Nicea, they stated that Easter shall be celebrated on the Sunday following the first full moon, after the first day of Spring on March 21st. This means that Easter must be celebrated sometime between March 22 and April 25.
How did Easter get its Name?
No one really knows for sure how Easter got its name, but one popular belief is that the name came from the Goddess of Spring called Eostre. People worshiped this Goddess thousands of years ago, even before Jesus came. The belief was that the sun died in winter and experienced a new birth in Spring-Time and Eostre was considered the bringer of Spring. It was a natural fit with the Christian tradition of Easter, celebrating new Birth.
Lent: a Time of Repentence
Lent is a Christian tradition that has been adopted by the secular culture, so that even nominal Christians will give up something for Lent. The idea for Christians is that they give up something in order to consider their wrong-doings. Jesus went without food for 40 days in the desert, so originally it was a 40 day fast. Nowadays though, people usually just pick one thing such as sweets or alcohol to give up. The money not spent on these things is usually given to charity.
The color purple is associated with Lent. This is for 2 reasons: purple symbolizes suffering and it also symbolizes royalty, symbolizing Jesus as King.
Easter Gift Baskets
Shrove (Pancake) Tuesday
Shrove Tuesday is the day before Lent, which is the 40 days leading up to Easter. Since Lent is traditionally a time of repentance and denial of things such as rich foods, Pancake Tuesday was used a day to have a feast and enjoy yourself before this time. Pancakes were traditionally cooked because it's a good way to use up rich foods such as milk and eggs that were often forbidden during Lenten time.
The tradition dates from England in 1445, where a woman was in the middle of making pancakes when the Church Bells rang on Shrove Tuesday. She didn't want to be late, so ran to Church with the pancake and fry pan still in her hand.
The Easter Bunny: a symbol of Springtime
For thousands of years, rabbits have been associated with springtime. It's thought that Christians took the tradition from the Pagan Anglo-Saxon Goddess Eostre, who was the goddess of spring. Her symbol was the rabbit, since it's a symbol of fertility and re-birth in spring, following a long, hard winter.
The tradition of the Easter Bunny leaving treats for children came to America in the 1700's from German immigrants, and was readily adopted throughout North America. However, it's not that common in Britain and other English speaking countries. In some families, they tell their children to leave carrots out for the bunny and that they need to be good boys and girls, or the Easter Bunny won't leave them anything. Kind of like Santa Claus at Christmas-time.
More Easter Traditions Information
Easter Eggs: a symbol of new life
Easter is a time when Christians celebrate new life because it's a holiday in remembrance of Jesus overcoming death and rising from the grave. A symbol of the resurrection is an egg, and a cracked open egg represents Jesus' empty tomb. An egg also represents new life in that it doesn't seem alive but after a certain period, a new life pops out from inside of it. It has always represented birth in almost all cultures around the world.
People celebrate Easter by decorating eggs and eating sugary chocolate eggs. This tradition started around 100 years ago.
Have an Easter Feast with your family
For most families, it's quite traditional to have a big feast on Easter Sunday, usually in the afternoon. Ham is the most common food to cook, but there are some families who do a turkey or roast. You need all the fixings, along with some special bread, and spring vegetables. Delicious!