In the Christian tradition, Easter is the most important and oldest festival and marks the death and resurrection Jesus Christ. The feast is fixed onto the first Sunday after the first full moon following the northern spring equinox. It occurs around, but not always on top of, the Jewish festival of Passover. Passover itself is significant to Christians as Judaism and its traditions forms the basis of their belief. This year Passover takes place from 19 to 27 April. Both Passover and Easter are celebrations of God’s mercy towards mankind for the faithful.
The first reference to the festival as Easter is found around the 7th and 8th century in England. It is derived from the name of Eostre, the goddess of spring and fertility after Christianity had replaced pagan traditions
Before the name Easter, the feast had been referred to by the term Pascha.
The Egg and Easter
In the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches, Easter eggs are dyed red to represent the blood of Christ who sacrificed himself on the cross for all of mankind. The hard shell of the egg symbolizes the sealed Tomb of Christ – the cracking of which symbolizes his resurrection from the dead. In other parts of the world eggs are dyed bright colours and hidden as a part of an egg hunt game. The chocolate Easter egg started to emerge as tradition for this feast in the Victorian era in the UK when Cadbury introduced the product.
John Cadbury, the English chocolatier, made his first solid Easter eggs in 1842. The first really good filled egg was made in 1875 and the rest is history.
For Christians, the tradition of eating lamb on Easter Sunday is symbolic of the sacrifice that Jesus made for them when he died on the Cross for their sin and lamb is eaten in remembrance of his selfless act.
The Easter Bunny
The exact origins of the Easter bunny are clouded in mystery. Rabbits are first mentioned in 1682, in Alsace, France, where they are thought to bring Easter eggs. Children were encouraged to build little nests, giving the rabbit a place to leave the treats. The nests would later develop into the Easter basket. The tradition now has deep roots in the US. The Easter bunny first arrived in America in the 1700s with German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania and transported their tradition of an egg-laying hare called “Osterhase” or “Oschter Haws.” Their children made nests in which this creature could lay its colored eggs. Eventually, the custom spread across the country.