Easter – Eggs, Bunnies and All That!

Easter is important in the Christian Calendar as it remembers the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday, (an odd name you may think for the day of crucifixion, but it is thought to be a corruption of God’s Day) and we remember this by eating currant buns with a cross on the top. On Easter Monday we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and the end of the fasting season of Lent. Years ago, fasting for lent was much more common among orthodox Christian Churches than it is today and the only way that people could store their fresh eggs was to roast or boil them. At the end of the Lent Season, before eating to “ break the fast” the eggs were dyed by boiling with flowers, sometimes green or oft-times red to represent the blood of Christ and his sacrifice and consequent renewal of life.

In time, it became the custom to play competitive games with the eggs. One idea was to roll them downhill and the owner of the egg that remained un-cracked for the longest time was the winner. It also gave rise to egg tapping, also known as dumping or jarring, where each player taps his egg against the opponent’s egg and the holder of the last intact egg wins. The World Egg Tapping Championship is held every year over Easter at Peterlee Cricket Club and so if you fancy being a World Champion but are not too good at any sport, then this may be for you.

Traditional Easter eggs

The name Easter, however, is thought to be taken from the pagan Saxon Goddess Eastre or Eostre, celebrated by the Saxons of Northern Europe as the Goddess of Spring, though there is no historical fact for this. The Easter Bunny or sometimes Hare were also adopted as a symbol of Easter because of their fertility and presumably their rapid rate of reproduction. In Switzerland however, it is the Cuckoo – not sure how that works.

The tradition of the Easter Bunny bringing baskets of eggs, sweets and sometimes toys, or perhaps hiding eggs in the gardens of children and giving rise to the Easter egg hunt is common throughout Europe, first mentioned in Georg Franck von Frankenau’s “De Ovis Paschalibus” (about Easter Eggs) in 1682. The first chocolate egg in Britain was made by J. S. Fry and Sons of England in 1873. In the U.K. alone 80 million Easter Eggs are sold each year!

Because of the idea of Spring, renewal and fertility, Easter was also considered to be a good time for marriage and the tradition of the Easter Bonnet comes from the beautiful hats that would be made and trimmed by women for the celebration of weddings. Thus we still have Easter Bonnet competitions today. The most luxurious egg of all is of course the one made by Peter Carl Faberge for the last two Russian Tsars, 1885-1916, decorated with precious jewels and considered masterpieces of decorative art. Most of these contained hidden surprises such as clockwork birds or miniature ships.

Whatever you do, enjoy Easter Weston and stay safe.

Pauline Colsey – 25th March, 2017

Posted in Museum Blog.