You may have seen our previous article showcasing Easter foods from around the world. We yearly indulge in chocolate eggs, hot cross buns and lamb roast dinners, but have you ever wondered where the food traditionally featured in a British Easter comes from?  

Easter eggs

 

 

 

Lotus Head https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Easter-Eggs.jpg

Who doesn’t love a yearly excuse to indulge in copious amounts of chocolate? Eggs symbolise new life and fertility in many cultures, which is why they are associated with spring, and have been decorated for use in ceremonies for thousands of years. Eggs in Christian celebration began with the Christians of Mesopotamia (now Iraq), who stained them red to represent Jesus’ blood and said the hard shell symbolises his tomb.  They also were used in Easter celebration because people were forbidden from eating them during Lent, so a large supply is built up by the time Easter arrives. Nowadays, eggs are an important part of Easter all over the world.  The first chocolate eggs were sold in the early 19th century, and came to Britain in 1873.  Then in 1905, milk chocolate was introduced which gave them a boost in popularity.

Chocolate bunny

Tammy Green https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lindt_bunnies.jpg

Chocolate rabbits are a variant on Easter eggs, modelled after the Easter bunny.  Rabbits, like eggs, have long been symbols of the fertility and new life of spring time.  In medieval times they were symbols of the Virgin Mary because people believed that rabbits could reproduce without mating. The first mention of the Easter bunny is in a German text from 1682, describing a magic hare that lays eggs as gifts for good children.  By the 1800s, pastry or sugar bunnies were made at Easter.  Making chocolate bunnies became popular shortly after chocolate eggs.     

Roast lamb

Jax House https://c1.staticflickr.com/8/7090/6979527280_e74ed3386c_b.jpg

For many centuries the lamb has represented sacrifice, as it was a readily available animal used in religious sacrifices.  It symbolises the new life and fertility of spring, and is linked to the Jewish Passover which is celebrated in March or April.  When some Jewish groups converted to Christianity over time, they kept their tradition of eating lamb at the spring-time festival.  
It fits in with Christian beliefs, because the lamb has been a motif in Christianity for a long time – Jesus is sometimes referred to as the ‘Lamb of God’.  On a less religious note, lamb is one of the first fresh meats to be ready for slaughter early on in the year.

Hot Cross Buns

Jan Smith https://c1.staticflickr.com/6/5327/7048992805_6b0f16a120_b.jpg

I always know that warmer weather is on the way when hot cross buns appear on the supermarket shelves.  These spiced buns stuffed with raisins and topped with that distinctive cross were not originally associated with Christianity.  The tradition of baking buns with a cross mark on top is thought to go all the way back to the pagan Saxons, to celebrate their goddess Eostre in April (who you might have guessed is the namesake of Easter).  Over time it was adopted into Christian celebrations.  By Tudor times the hot cross bun was a well established part of Easter, with the cross symbol being used to symbolise Jesus on the cross.  It was a common superstition that hot cross buns baked on Good Friday would never go mouldy and had healing properties!