Easter Traditions In The UK
As an English man, who grew up inLondon, I have some fond memories of Easter, the traditions and things which we used to do. I would like to share some of these with you.
The Easter preparations begin with Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day) which is followed by the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday.
Easter egg hunts
First of all, an easter egg is a hollow, egg-shaped chocolate treat. Children (and adults!) all over the country look forward to their baskets of Easter eggs, which they receive on Easter Sunday.
Children are told that the eggs are delivered by the Easter bunny.
Yes, that’s right – a rabbit.
The story of the Easter Bunny comes, originally, from German folk stories. The rabbit lays the eggs and delivers them to the children if they have been good over the Easter period.
Easter Egg hunts often take place on Easter morning, if the weather is good. Adults hide small Easter eggs in the garden, house, or village and the children must follow clues in order to find them. Usually, there are enough Easter eggs for all the children to enjoy.
I lived in house with 5 brothers and my parents, the Easter Egg hunt was always lots of fun.
Eggs, as you may by now have guessed, are a big part of Easter in Britain. They symbolise new life and represent the rebirth of Jesus.
Before we had chocolate eggs, children would often decorate real eggs to mark the occasion. A lot of children still enjoy doing this, but the chocolate eggs are far more popular of course!
As a child I would use paints to decorate the eggs and use many different colours.
Hot Cross Buns
Hot cross buns are another delicious tradition in UK. These raisin filled buns are toasted, lathered in butter and before being enjoyed with a nice cup of tea.
The crosses symbolise the Christian belief that Jesus died on the cross for their sins.
We could never have enough of these delicious buns.
Maypole dancing is another Easter time tradition in Britain – and in other parts of the world too. Dancers hold on to colourful ribbons which are attached the the top of a large pole and dance in patterns, often to live music played by the village band.
The tradition certainly comes from our pre-Christian heritage but has been a big part of the celebrations at Easter times for centuries.
A few of the schools in my area used to put on a Maypole dance for the families of the students.
Not only is this tradition unique to the UK, but it is unique to a particular village in the UK. The dance troupe is called the Britannia Coco-nut Dancers, or the “Nutters” for short. These dancers perform their show during Easter in a village called Bacup in Lancaster, England.
They dance for 11 km through the village and drink a pint of beer in every pub they stop at along the way. The eight dancers dress very strangely, with clogs (wooden shoes), a red and white skirt, black trousers and shirts. They also paint their faces black, which some people don’t like very much, as they say it is racist. However, the dancers say it’s simply a type of mask and is not intended to represent a race.
As I was living in London, I never had the chance to experience this dance first hand.
If you see a man dressed in white, with bells on his trousers and a stick or handkerchief in his hand, don’t be scared. He’s a Morris Dancer.
Morris Dancing often takes place during Easter parades or village fairs. It’s a type of English folk dancing, and quite a strange thing to watch. The dance troupes are traditionally all-male, but there are now also female groups too. They practice their craft at other times of year too, but their first shows usually take place in spring, when the weather is warming up a bit.
I had the opportunity to see some Morris Dancers at one of the schools in my area.
Holy Thursday/Great Thursday – Maundy Thursday
The Royal Maundy is an ancient ceremony which has its origin in the commandment Christ gave after washing the feet of his disciples on the day before Good Friday.
Henry IV began the practice of relating the number of recipients of gifts to the sovereign’s age, and as it became the custom of the sovereign to perform the ceremony, the event became known as the Royal Maundy.
Today’s recipients of Royal Maundy, as many elderly men and women as there are years in the sovereign’s age, are chosen because of the Christian service they have given to the Church and community. At the ceremony which takes place annually on Maundy Thursday, the sovereign hands to each recipient two small leather string purses. One, a red purse, contains – in ordinary coinage – money in lieu of food and clothing; the other, a white purse, contains silver Maundy coins consisting of the same number of pence as the years of the sovereign’s age.
Good Friday – Hot Cross Buns
A traditional favourite on Good Friday in England, Hot Cross Buns are a spicy currant or raisin studded yeast bun, topped with a ›Cross‹ of lemon flavoured icing.
Hot cross buns, hot cross buns,
one a penny, two a penny,
Hot cross buns.
If you have no daughters,
give them to your sons,
One a penny, two a penny,
Hot cross buns.
This day is often called Easter Saturday which is not correct. Easter Saturday is the Saturday after Easter Sunday.
For Christians Easter Sunday is the high point of the year. They celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Easter eggs are important in Britain, too. They are a symbol of rebirth in most cultures. People decorate them with different colours using special techniques. Children believe that the Easter Rabbit hides the eggs in the garden.
A traditional food is Roast lamb for dinner on Easter Day.
In some areas ›egg rolling‹ is still popular today. People take the eggs to the top of a hill and roll them down. The first egg to get to the foot of that hill is the winner.