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Ideas / Album / Easter Sunday
Easter traditions in the UK
  Church services
  Easter food
  Egg events
  Egg painting
  Easter bunnies
  Further information


This page gives a brief introduction to some of the traditions in the UK on Easter Sunday.

Easter and Christmas Day are the two most important religious days for Christians. Easter Sunday marks the end of a period known as Lent.

The name "Easter" (and the German name for it: Ostern) comes from Eostre, the ancient name of an Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring. The name used in some other European countries is derived from the name for the Hebrew festival called the Passover (French: Pâques, Italian: Pasqua, Spanish: Pascua).

The date of Easter changes each year (it is celebrated on the Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox). Between 2011 and 2020 it will be on these dates:
2011 April 24 ; 2012 April 8 ; 2013 March 31 ; 2014 April 20 ; 2015 April 5 ; 2016 March 27 ; 2017 April 16 ; 2018 April 1 ; 2019 April 21 ; 2020 April 12
(note that Easter is celebrated on different dates by the Eastern Orthodox churches)

Many shops in the UK are closed on Easter Sunday, even if they normally open on other Sundays.

Easter: Recipes, Gifts and Decorations
Author: Tessa Evelegh
Publisher: Southwater
Date: January 2007
Together for a Season: Lent, Holy Week and Easter
Author: Gillian Ambrose, Peter Craig-Wild, Diane Craven, Peter Moger
Publisher: Church House Publishing
Date: March 2007

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On Good Friday Christians remember the crucifixion (death on a cross) of Jesus Christ. Two days later, on Easter Sunday, they celebrate his resurrection (return to life). Church altars are usually decorated with flowers. The displays often include white lilies. A white lily is a symbol of the Virgin Mary (the mother of Jesus). The colour white represents ideas such as innocence, peace and hope.

Most churches have several services on Easter Sunday:
details are displayed on posters near the entrance

The altar is decorated with flowers:
white lilies are often included in the display

Churches may be kept dark on Maundy Thursday or Good Friday, but on Easter Sunday they are usually brightly lit with candles. There is a special Paschal candle which is larger than the others - a new one is blessed each Easter (sometimes at a special service called an Easter Vigil on the evening before Easter Sunday). It is lit during services for the next 50 days (the seven weeks between Easter Sunday and Pentecost Sunday) and on special occasions during the rest of the year. There are special markings on the Paschal candle. In the middle is a cross, sometimes including five marks which represent the wounds of Jesus (nails were driven through each of his hands and feet, and a spear was put through the side of his body). There are also written the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet (alpha and omega) and the current year: these represent the idea that God's spirit is present everywhere and at all times.

Candles are lit throughout the church ...

... the Paschal candle is the largest ...

... and has symbolic markings like these

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It is common to eat a chocolate Easter egg on Easter Sunday. The most common type is a large chocolate shell containing a packet of other sweets inside. Parents often give one of these to each of their children as a gift. In the UK in recent years it has become increasingly common to eat egg-shaped chocolates at other times of the year as well, especially in the time between Christmas and Easter. An egg is an appropriate symbol for Easter because it can be both a sign of the coming of spring (when birds lay their eggs) and can have Christian meaning because it represents the creation of new life (like the resurrection of Jesus).

A Simnel cake is sometimes eaten at Easter in England and Ireland. This is a fruit cake with a thin layer of marzipan on the top, and another similar layer baked in the middle. The Easter version of this cake usually has eleven marzipan balls on the top: these are Christian symbols, each ball representing one of the apostles (followers of Jesus). There were actually twelve apostles, but one of them (Judas) is excluded because he betrayed Jesus. This type of cake is sold by local bakers and is available in some teashops and supermarkets.

Chocolate treats are created in many shapes and sizes

A Simnel cake is traditionally eaten on Mother's Day or at Easter

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An egg hunt is often organised as an event for children. Several eggs are hidden in a building or in a garden, then children are sent to look for them. When the egg hunt is indoors chocolate eggs are hidden and the person who finds an egg can keep it and eat it. When egg hunts are organised outdoors, the eggs which are hidden are made from paper or other materials and are later exchanged for chocolate eggs. The egg hunt shown below was organised by a church (the Priory Church of St Batholomew the Great, in central London) after its Easter church service.

An egg hunt is a popular Easter activity:

small Easter eggs are hidden ...

... and children search for them

An egg trail is a treasure hunt. You need to solve a series of clues, each of which leads to the location of the next clue. Once you reach the final location you can receive some chocolate eggs. This type of event is often organised by a museum, country house or park.

Egg rolling races are outdoor events. Children roll hard-boiled eggs down a slope, competing to reach the bottom first.

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The tradition of painting eggs and using them as decorations or gifts is not common in the UK as it is in some other European countries or in the United States, but it is becoming increasingly popular in recent years. If the egg is to be used as a decoration the contents need to be removed from the shell. The process is as follows:
- put the egg into an empty egg container and hold it firmly in place with one hand
- hold a needle in your other hand and use it to make small holes at the top and bottom, one end larger than the other
- use a long needle to mix together the yolk and the egg-white
- place the egg over a bowl and blow several times through the smaller hole, so that most of the contents come out
- put the egg in a container containing a mixture of water and some vinegar - let the egg become half full of water
- shake the egg gently and blow it again, until the shell is empty
- clean the shell by leaving it for a while in a mixture of water and vinegar (about 3 times as much water as vinegar)
- leave the egg to dry overnight
- once it is dry, decorate the shell with paint or dye
- place a thread through the smaller hole and out the other end
- hang the egg, either from one end of the thread (by tying a knot) or by pinning both ends of the thread

Egg shells may be painted
and used as decorations

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Bunnies (baby rabbits) are are used as symbols at Easter: like eggs, they represent spring as well as the idea of new life. Chocolate bunnies are becoming a popular alternative to chocolate eggs.

In Germany and some other countries (such as the United States) children are told that at Easter they are visited by the Easter Bunny, which leaves them eggs or other small gifts. In the UK the Easter Bunny sometimes appears at events for children, but this is not a common part of the Easter celebrations.

This Easter Bunny is
carrying some Easter eggs

A Lindt chocolate-maker hands out
some of the Swiss company's bunnies ...

... helping to raise some money for a
children's charity

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Wikipedia article about Easter:

Egg trails at National Trust properties in the UK:
Roller skating event in London's Hyde Park:

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Good Friday traditions: Ideas/Album/Good-Friday
Pancake races on Shrove Tuesday: Ideas/Album/PancakeRace
Christmas traditions: Ideas/Album/Christmas
Ideas for Easter presents: Ideas/Gifts/Easter
Monthly guide to events in the UK: Ideas/Events
Religions in the UK: Personal/Religion

Home page: Home

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