HAVE you ever wondered why we celebrate Easter with masses of chocolate eggs, send the children off to search for the elusive Easter Bunny and munch Simnel cake?
Eggs have been associated with Easter celebrations throughout history.
The egg was a symbol of fertility and new beginnings which Christians adopted to represent the resurrection of Jesus. In ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome and Persia eggs were dyed for spring festivals while in medieval Europe, beautifully decorated eggs were given as gifts.
The Easter Bunny is a rabbit-spirit who long ago was known as the “Easter Hare”. Hares and rabbits with their multiple births became a symbol of fertility.
The traditional Easter egg hunt began because children believed that hares laid eggs in the grass. The rabbit also symbolises new life.
In the late 17th century, girls in service brought a rich fruit cake called Simnel cake home to their mothers on the fourth Sunday of Lent.
The cake was enriched with marzipan and decorated with 11 marzipan balls representing the 12 apostles minus Judas, who betrayed Christ.
We know Easter is almost upon us when the shops are not only stocked with Easter Eggs but also hot cross buns.
These delicious treats have their origins in Greek and Egyptian times when people ate small cakes or buns in honour of the respective goddesses they worshipped.
Buns marked with a cross were eaten by the Saxons to honour their goddess Eostre - it is thought the bun represented the moon and the cross the moon’s quarters.
To Christians, the cross symbolises the crucifixion.
Easter is determined, like its pagan festival equivalent, by the lunar calendar.
This year the Easter weekend starts with Good Friday on April 10 and ends on Easter Monday April 13.