A very British Easter
Easter is one of the major holidays & Christian festivals in the UK, full of customs, folklore and of course, traditional Easter food. Improve your English vocabulary with our Easter Guide, from hot cross buns to Easter egg rolling.
Origins of Easter
Easter in the UK has its beginnings long before the arrival of Christianity. Many theologians believe Easter itself is named after the Anglo-Saxon goddess of the dawn and spring - Eostre.
Also called Spy Wednesday, or Good Wednesday (in Western Christianity).
This is the name given to the Thursday before Easter. Christians remember it as the day of the Last Supper. The word "Maundy" comes from the French word, "Mandé" meaning "command" or "mandate” and is taken from the command given by Christ at the Last Supper, "love one another as I have loved you.”
On the Friday before Easter, Christians commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It is a day of mourning in church and special Good Friday services are held.
The Saturday of Holy Week (the week before Easter), also known as Great Saturday, the Great Sabbath, Black Saturday, Joyous Saturday, or Easter Eve.
People who regularly attend church often attend special services on Easter Sunday, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. Unlike Sweden, Easter Sunday is the big family day when families usually gather for Easter lunch.
Good Friday and Easter Monday (the day after Easter Sunday) are bank holidays (i.e. public holidays) in the UK.
Exchanging and eating Easter eggs is a popular custom. As in many countries, focus has shifted from hard-boiled dyed eggs in various colours and patterns to confectionary eggs. Unlike Swedish Easter eggs, which are made of cardboard and then filled with a selection of sweets, English Easter eggs are usually hollow eggs made of chocolate, wrapped in brightly coloured foil and packaged in an elaborate box. Worthy of mention is the Cadbury creme egg, which is as classic at Easter as a Swedish box of Aladdin is at Christmas.
Easter Bunny and Egg Hunts
British children believe that if they are good the "Easter Bunny" will leave (chocolate) eggs for them. An Easter egg hunt is a fun holiday activity for kids of all ages. The object of this Easter activity is to simply find the eggs that the Easter bunny has left for them.
The tradition of rolling decorated eggs down grassy hills goes back hundreds of years and is known as "pace-egging", from the old English Pasch meaning Pesach or Passover. Real eggs are rolled against one another or down a hill. The owner of the egg that stays uncracked the longest wins. Even today in the north of England, they still carry out the custom of egg rolling. Hard boiled eggs are rolled down slopes to see whose egg goes furthest. In other places another game is played. You hold an egg in the palm of the hand and bang against your opponent's egg. The loser is the one whose egg breaks first.
Easter was once a traditional day for getting married, which may be why people often dress up for Easter. Women made and wore special Easter bonnets - decorated with flowers and ribbons.
Hot Cross Buns
Hot cross buns, now eaten throughout the Easter season, were first baked in the UK to be served on Good Friday. These small, lightly sweet yeast buns contain raisins or currants and sometimes chopped candied fruit. Before baking, a cross is slashed in the top of the bun. After baking, a confectioners' sugar icing is used to fill the cross.
A traditional way of breaking the Lenten fast is to eat some simnel cake. These are raised cakes, with a crust made of fine flour and water, coloured yellow with saffron, and filled with a very rich plum-cake, with plenty of candied lemon peel, and dried fruits.
For many in the UK, Easter is synonymous with the Great DIY weekend (DIY: Do it yourself, aka home renovations) as the combination of a long weekend and spring weather inspire to get things done.
Wising you a very Happy Easter from us all at the London School of English!
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