Is Easter just a time to watch repeats on TV and eat chocolate eggs?
With all the chocolate eggs, 'Easter specials' and sales being advertised, it can be easy to forget the roots of this Christian festival that is essentially about being reborn.
The history of Easter
Christians believe that after He was betrayed by one of his followers, Jesus Christ was crucified - nailed to a cross - by the Roman's. He died and his followers took his body, prepared it for burial, and entombed Him in a cave so the body could not be stolen or abused. Each day they came to the cave to give thanks and on the third day, Mary Magdalene found the cave to be open and empty, and when she turned around Jesus was standing behind her very much alive.
The message for Christian's is that Jesus was resurrected - saved - by God, His father, and that anyone who follows Jesus Christ in life will also be saved. This idea is central to the faith and the reason Easter is traditionally celebrated every year.
So, when did Jesus eat a chocolate egg?
Chocolate, as we know it today, wasn't even invented around the time Jesus was crucified 2000 years ago, so it's fair to say that this more modern tradition definitely did not come from Him! However, the egg - which represented the idea of new life or new beginnings for many pagans in Europe - soon came to represent the new life of Jesus and His followers as Christianity spread.
During Lent, the 40 days before Easter, many Christians would avoid eating eggs. Around the 13th Century, Christians began exchanging painted eggs at Easter to celebrate. In the 17th Century the idea of egg-shaped toys emerged and children would receive wooden or tin painted eggs, often filled with sweets. The first chocolate eggs appeared in Germany and France at the start of the 19th Century. By the early 20th Century, exchanging chocolate eggs at Easter as a symbol of the new life Jesus gives to His followers was common place.
And the Easter Bunny was Jesus' pet ... ?
It's unlikely Jesus would have kept a pet, and if he had it would have been something useful like a donkey. The idea of an Easter bunny began in Germany around the 17th Century. New 'reformed' Christians who had moved away from the Catholic Church would tell their children that the Easter Bunny would bring toys and sweets to them if they had been good. Like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny became a type of 'judge' for good behaviour, and the 'hare' - a type of rabbit - was also a symbol of purity in the Christian faith.
How can I celebrate Easter?
If you're Christian, then sharing a meal with family, attending church and exchanging chocolate eggs as a symbol of Jesus' rebirth will be usual activities at this time of year. If you're not Christian, you can still embrace the celebration and the idea of new beginnings. Why not use this time to make a positive change in your life - start a course, quit smoking or challenge your kids to do their homework regularly? It's also an opportunity to be thankful for what you have already, and to spend the four day weekend with loved ones.