Easter has its roots in pagan religion particularly from the old European festival of “Ostara” or “Eostre” that celebrated the death of long and cold winter months and the birth of spring and looked forward to the fertile months of summer. Its strongest association is with the egg a symbol of birth and regeneration.
At the emergence of Christianity and to encourage pagan conversion to Christianity, the ancient church’s founders co-opted the pagan festival for their own use and so the Christian Easter was born.
As with all festivals food plays an important part in Easter celebrations. As the egg is the symbol of new life, a new beginning it is likely that the first special Easter foods were boiled eggs some of which may have been coloured with natural organic dyes.
Eggs have remained popular ever since. More later
Hot Cross Buns and Simnel Cake
There are a host of other special foods eaten at Easter. In the United Kingdom both Hot Cross Buns and Simnel Cake are popular delicacies. Hot Cross Buns are eaten on Good Friday and Simnel Cake on Mothering Sunday which in the United Kingdom falls on the middle Sunday of Lent.
Hot Cross Buns were eaten all year round by the Angles, Saxons and Jutes the sweet bun representing the moon and the four quarters the four seasons. Again the early Christian church adopted the tradition of spiced and baked buns but altered the meaning of the cross to suit their beliefs.
The Simnel Cake is a delicious fruit cake with a layer of marzipan on the top; placed on the outer rim of the cake are eleven marzipan balls representing the eleven loyal disciples.
Easter Buns and Breads
Many non-Anglo-Saxon cultures have similar sweetened and spiced baked products Countries around the world serve sweet cakes in the same vein, such as Czech babobka and Polish baba. The Greeks and Portuguese serve round, flat loaves marked with a cross and decorated with Easter eggs. Syrian and Jordanian Christians have honey pastries.
The traditional Easter meal in many countries is roast lamb, this is because Jesus Christ is sometimes depicted with a lamb at his ankles and is described as the Lamb of God. It is also symbolic of the slaughter of a sacrificial lamb at Passover. In the United States ham is the traditional Easter meal.
Easter Eggs and Faberge Eggs
Eggs either real or chocolate play an important part in the Easter Celebrations, the egg is the symbol of birth, re-birth and renewal. Many European countries have traditions of decorating hard boiled eggs and perhaps the most extravagant Easter eggs of all time were the fabulously decorated eggs made by Faberge for the Imperial Russian court.
Chocolate Eggs and Easter Rabbits
Chocolate Easter eggs are always welcomed by both children and adults at this time of year. The eggs are not just a part of aeons of tradition but are delicious too. Besides the chocolate eggs, chocolate rabbits are popular sweet Easter gifts. The rabbit has a significance as an Easter symbol because of its amazing fertility and reproduction abilities. So the Easter bunny also symbolises the rebirth of the sun’s warming and life-giving powers.
Whether one is religious or not Easter is a time to celebrate longer days, shorter nights and the promise of new growth and life to come.