What is Easter?
Easter was originally known as Pascha after the Hebrew word for Passover but was replaced by the word Easter, which comes from Eostre, the name of the Anglo-Saxon goddess of fertility and springtime.
Food at Easter
Easter in Britain and Ireland is similar throughout all four countries and involves traditional cooking and baking with the highlight of the weekend of festivities involving copious amounts of chocolate eggs.
The two important cakes at Easter are the Simnel Cake and Hot Cross Buns.
Hot Cross Buns are marked with a cross and were eaten by the Saxons to honor their goddess Eostre - it is thought the bun represented the moon and the cross the moon's quarters. To Christians, the cross symbolizes the crucifixion and traditionally eaten warm with butter on Good Friday.
The Simnel Cake signifies the end of Lent, the period of 40 days which comes before Easter. For Christians, Lent is a period of fasting and repentance. It culminates in a feast of seasonal and symbolic foods. The Simnel Cake is rich with fruits, spices and marzipan, all forbidden during the period of Lent.
Originally the Simnel Cake was made on Mother's Day (Mothering Sunday) in the days when girls in service (maids and cooks) were given the day off to visit their mothers. It is now, however, eaten at Easter.
The name is believed to come from a sister (Nell) and brother (Simon) wanted to make a cake for their mother.
One wanted to bake the cake, the other to boil it which was once a common way of cooking a cake. They decided to do both and bring them together in one cake.
Eggs have been associated with Easter celebrations throughout history; in ancient times it was thought the egg represented fertility and new beginnings.
For Christians, the resurrection is symbolic of new beginnings and represented by the giving and receiving of eggs.
Since the Middle Ages it is traditional for the eggs to be brightly colored, celebrating the brightness of spring sunshine. It is still an important custom for Christians, though in modern times the eggs are made of chocolate, another relief from the austerity of Lent.
Easter Day Lunch
The culmination of Easter weekend is the Easter lunch. As Easter falls in the spring the favorite meat across England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland is lamb. A simple roast leg of lamb, or a boned leg, stuffed with fresh herbs is always a favorite.
Side dishes will always be the best of spring vegetables; spring cabbage, new season carrots, and a dish of Jersey Royal Potatoes.Gravy will also be served usually made with meat juices and stock and a fresh mint sauce, the only condiment.
Chocolate will appear again for dessert, usually a Chocolate Mousse or decadent chocolate cake.