As Easter approaches it really got me thinking about WHY we eat some of the foods we do and WHY we celebrate in certain ways. Why do we only eat Hot Cross Buns at this time of year? What is a Simnel Cake and why exactly is there an Easter Bunny? So I started to do some investigating to see if I can get to the bottom of the 4 most common Easter traditions
Hot Cross Buns
Oh how I love delicious hot cross buns. These lightly spiced, raisin packed, doughy joys are traditionally marked with a cross on top (either made from icing or dough) and are eaten during Easter. There are many legends, stories and superstitions surrounding the humble hot cross bun and some versions of the baked delights can be dated back to Ancient Greece! The first record of a hot cross bun though comes from a 1733 text that reads: “Good Friday comes this month, the old woman runs, with one or two a penny hot cross buns”.
This traditional Easter fruit cake, layered with Marzipan dates back to the Tudor times. It is believed that the word Simnel derives from the latin word ‘simila’ meaning fine, wheaten flour that was traditionally used to bake cakes for Mothering Sunday (which happens to fall during lent). By the 18th Century however it has transferred to an Easter treat to celebrate the end of the 40 days of lent. The 11 marzipan balls that sit on top are said to represent the apostles - Judas doesn’t merit his own marzipan ball though.
Chocolate Easter Eggs
Traditionally chicken eggs would be dyed and painted and were used to symbolise fertility and rebirth. However, it is though that this activity pre-dates Christianity and many cultures around the world still continue this tradition at various times of the year. In the UK however chocolate is now synonymous with Easter.
The first chocolate Easter egg introduced to Britain is attributed to J.S. Fry and Sons of England in 1987 and it wasn’t long until this chocolatey trend soon spread and today it is a classic symbol of the Easter period.
The Easter Bunny
A rabbit (or bunny) represents springtime and is another ancient symbol of fertility and rebirth.
Legend has it that the Easter Bunny originated in Germany with the job of determining whether the children had been good or disobedient (kind of like the Easter version of Santa Claus).
First referenced in 1682 it is said that he carried coloured eggs in his basket to give to the good children.
Not as scary as I thought!