The Easter bunny has arrived, chocolate Easter eggs are in the shops, the daffodils are out, and the weather is getting better!
Easter is a great time of year, but what are its origins?
Originally Easter was called Pascha after the Hebrew word for Passover, a Jewish festival that happens at this time of year. It was replaced by Easter, a word which is believed to have evolved from Eostre, the name of the Anglo-Saxon goddess of fertility and springtime.
The date of Easter is determined by the lunar calendar. In 2008, the Easter weekend starts with Good Friday on 21st March and ends on Easter Monday, 24 March.
There are many food traditions celebrated at this time of year.
Hot cross buns are a favourite for many in the United Kingdom, and are thought to have originated from the ancient Greeks and Egyptians who ate small cakes or buns in honour of the respective goddesses that they worshipped. Buns marked with a cross were eaten by the Saxons to honour a goddess. It is thought the bun represented the moon and the cross, its four quarters. To Christians, the cross symbolises the crucifixion.
In Scandinavia, Easter Pasha is eaten. This is a fluffy creamy pudding, which is very light and sweet, and in Finland a strange mixture of molasses and rye flour is served at this time of year. It dates back to the sixteenth century and is called Mämmi.
Of course Easter wouldn’t be Easter without eggs! The tradition of colouring eggs in bright colours goes back to the Middle Ages. It is said that this represents the sunlight of spring. In Germany it is traditional to paint eggs green, while in Greek and Slavic cultures eggs are dyed red as a symbol of the blood of Christ.
For many, Easter symbolises new life, and images of new born chicks, and rabbits (or bunnies) are to be seen everywhere, on television, Easter cards, and on eggs.