What does Easter mean in the UK?
Easter is a spring festival of new life. The tradition celebrates the beginning of growth and new life after the cold winter months. The name comes from the Anglo-Saxon goddess of the dawn and spring – Eostre. For Christians Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ and practising Christians attend special church services at Easter time. Easter celebrates life and rebirth, which is why we see lots of symbols of new life and fertility at Easter, like eggs, chicks, rabbits and many other animals brought into the world.
When is it?
Unlike Christmas, Easter isn’t on the same date each year. It takes place on the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring. This is usually the first Sunday in April. The schoolchildren and students in the UK have about a two-week holiday, which is almost as long as the Christmas holiday. It’s also the first public holiday after Christmas and everyone looks forward to their Easter break as a moment to relax. They consider it be a good time to have a short holiday or a good time to visit family and friends because of the long break.
For most British children, Easter means chocolate Easter eggs. The shops are full of bright Easter displays decorated with chicks, rabbits and flowers, all with the objective of selling chocolate eggs in huge numbers. Fortunately, 90 million chocolate eggs have been sold in the UK each year it is a clear sign to show the tradition is still strongly celebrated by a number of people in the UK. On average each child receives an average of around eight chocolate eggs from their family or friends.
Other ‘egg-straordinary’ traditions
In the UK, chocolate is definitely the most popular way to enjoy eggs at Easter. But there are some less sugary traditions, too. Such as chickens’ eggs that are painted and decorated to give as presents. Eggs are also hidden for children to find as part of an ‘egg hunt’. Some places even hold competitions to see who can roll an egg down a hill without it breaking!
Besides that there are other special foods tradititionally eaten during Easter time too. Hot cross buns are typical cakes that are made at Easter time. They are spiced bread rolls with raisins and they always have a cross shape on top. They are commonly preferred when they are toasted with butter inside.
On Good Friday Christians remember the crucifixion (death on a cross) of Jesus Christ. Two days later on Easter Sunday, they celebrate his resurrection (return to life). Church altars are usually decorated with flowers. The displays often include white lilies. A white lily is a symbol of the Virgin Mary (the mother of Jesus). The colour white represents ideas such as innocence, peace and hope.
Churches may be kept dark on Monday, Thursday or Good Friday, but on Easter Sunday they are usually brightly lit with candles. There is a special Paschal candle which is larger than the others. A new candle is blessed each Easter. It is lit during services for the next 50 days and also on special occasions during the rest of the year. There are special markings on the Paschal candle. In the middle is a cross, sometimes including five marks which represent the wounds of Jesus (nails were driven through each of his hands and feet, and a spear was put through the side of his body). There are also written the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet (alpha and omega) and the current year. These represent the idea that God’s spirit is present everywhere and at all times.