As we prepare to celebrate Easter again this year, let’s have a look at how and when some of the traditional Easter activities came about.
Eggs were traditionally used in pre-Christian festivals as the symbol of new life, purity, or fertility. Later, customs concerning eggs were linked with Easter because the egg provided a fresh and powerful symbol of the Resurrection and the transformation of death into life.
The tradition of wearing Easter bonnets is also related to the celebration of new life and the coming of spring. The first bonnets were actually circles or wreaths of leaves and spring flowers, but the tradition eventually developed into the wearing of extravagant hats often decorated with spring flowers.
Decorating and colouring Hen, Duck or Goose eggs for Easter was the custom in England during the Middle Ages. The household accounts of Edward I, for the year 1290, recorded an expenditure of eighteen pennies for four hundred and fifty eggs to be gold-leafed and coloured for Easter gifts.
Papier-mache Easter eggs started being produced in England in the 18th century and then the first chocolate eggs appeared in the 19th century, with the earliest ones being completely solid.
The most famous decorated Easter eggs are those designed by Peter Carl Faberge. In 1885 the Russian Tsar, Alexander III, commissioned Faberge to make a special Easter gift for his wife, the Empress Marie. This first Faberge egg was an egg within an egg. It had an outside shell of gold and white enamel which opened to reveal a smaller gold egg. The smaller egg, in turn, opened to display a golden chicken and a jewelled replica of the Imperial Crown. The Tsar and Tsarina were so impressed with their golden egg that they ordered the Faberge firm to design further eggs to be delivered every Easter. In later years Nicholas II, Alexander’s son, continued the custom.
Consecrated eggs were used by Christians in church ceremonies until the 4th century, when eggs became forbidden during Lent. However as spring was the peak laying time for hens there was a glut of eggs. This led to the practice of hard boiling and decorating them in bright colours as gift for children on Easter Sunday – the end of the Lenten fasting.
However you chose to celebrate Easter this year, I wish you a very happy one.
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A ComRes panel survey carried out in 2012 found that the majority of Christians feel there is a disassociation between the religious traditions of festivals and the way they are perceived today. Other findings show that:
- 90 per cent of Christians think that children today know less about the crucifixion and resurrection than those of 30 years ago.
- 95 per cent of Christians believe that Jesus was raised from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion.
- 77 per cent of practising Christians believe Easter is a more important festival than Christmas.
- 63 per cent of Christians think that Easter egg hunts, egg painting and similar activities are a good way of getting children to engage with the Easter story.
Some chocolatey Easter facts
- Easter chocolate sales make up 10 per cent of Britain’s annual spending on chocolate.
- The Ivory Coast in West Africa is the world’s leading producer of cocoa – supplying 43 per cent.
- Make Chocolate Fair estimates that there are 2 million children working on cocoa plantations in Ghana and the Ivory Coast; 500,000 of them in exploitative conditions.
- Fairtrade Chocolate sales now make up almost 12 per cent of UK chocolate confectionary sales and are worth £542m.
- Eggs were traditionally used in pre-Christian festivals as a symbol of new life, purity or fertility. Later customs concerning eggs were linked with Easter because the egg provided a fresh and powerful symbol of the resurrection and the transformation of death into life.
- The Real Easter Egg, an Easter egg that explains the Christian meaning of Easter is on sale again for Easter 2014. In the 4 years since production started 400,000 Real Easter eggs have been sold.
- Decorating and colouring Hen, Duck or Goose eggs for Easter was the custom in England during the Middle Ages. The household accounts of Edward I, for the year 1290, recorded an expenditure of eighteen pennies for four hundred and fifty eggs to be gold-leafed and coloured for Easter gifts.
- Papier-mache Easter eggs started being produced in England in the 18th century. The first chocolate eggs appeared in the 19th century, with the earliest ones being completely solid.
- The first chocolate Easter egg was produced in 1873 by Fry’s.
- The most popular chocolate egg worldwide is Cadbury’s Creme Egg. They first went on sale in 1971. The Cadbury factory at Bourneville can make 1.5 million Creme Eggs every day, and 200 million are sold in the UK every year.
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For my first piece on the new magazine I wanted to share something really current that a lot of us are including in our prayers at the moment, so I have borrowed an article (with permission) from my boss in the media team at the Evangelical Allliance, Chine Mbubaegbu:
Some things just feel so overwhelming that we as ordinary Christians are rendered powerless to do anything. The conflict in Syria is one of those things. But this week, a group of Christians in their 20s and 30s – brought together by the Evangelical Alliance’s threads community – gathered to think around the issues and come up with practical ways that we can help.
Following a vote against military intervention by the UK’s parliament a fortnight ago, and as the US congress debates whether they should intervene militarily in the conflict, it seems that evangelicals across the world are against such action being taken. A survey by the National Association of Evangelicals in the US on Tuesday found that 62.5 per cent of evangelical leaders were against military intervention, while 37.5 per cent were pro. The decision came as a surprise to many, including NAE president Leith Anderson who said: “I expected the answers would be the other way around.”
Our own poll last week found that 80 per cent were anti-military intervention.
Is there another way?
Speaking in Jordan last week, Dr Geoff Tunnicliffe, general secretary of the World Evangelical Alliance, said: “I think I can say that there is a major consensus amongst the Christian leaders in this region that any military intervention by the United States will have a detrimental effect on the situation and in particular for Christians in Syria. Christians have already been threatened in Syria by some of the opposition indicating that a post regime Syria will be Muslim and Christians will not be welcome.”
However, the possible responses to the situation could include far more than a straight decision between military intervention or not. And that’s what was discussed at the threads gathering on Monday evening in central London, which included talks from various perspectives on the conflict. Among those gathered were representatives from Tearfund, Christian Aid and Open Doors, as well as a young person from Aleppo in Syria who gave the insider perspective.
Phil Green, the Alliance’s programme manager and part of the threads team, who organised the event, explained: “There was a growing sense that what is happening in Syria cannot, and must not, be ignored. But what can we do? The issues are just so complex. There was also a growing sense that although everyone we speak to is against military intervention, there is nevertheless a feeling that some intervention is essential. But what are the other options? Is there a better way?”
Following the threads…
“threads is a collective, we want to be able to connect people in their 20s and 30s to wrestle with issues of faith and life, and grapple with the question: is there a better way? But we don’t just want to think, we want to act. The evening, although frustrating because it highlighted just how complex issues were and how in many ways the situation is bleak, was encouraging as there are genuine non-military options. There is hope bubbling up from within Syrian civil society, which we could support, and there are things that we can do to make a difference; both in terms of influencing national and global politics and supporting the humanitarian efforts financially. We were reminded that this is one of those times where our money can really make a difference.”
The threads gathering was reminded again of the importance of praying for peace in the region, for the local and national governments involved and for those providing humanitarian care.
There was also a call for us as Christians in the UK to consider how we can help practically, such as giving to the variety of different organisations with Syria humanitarian crisis appeals, or writing to and meeting up with our local MPs to discuss the issue.
threads is a collective of people in their 20s and 30s exploring faith and life, which was launched in August 2012 and is run by the Evangelical Alliance. Visit their website for more information.
Topics: World Mission
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