In a nutshell
Palm Sunday is the day that Jesus arrived in Jerusalem. Maundy Thursday is the day of the Last Supper and Good Friday is the day of Jesus’ crucifixion and death. Easter Sunday comes as a huge celebration at the end of Lent with feasting and treats, commemorating the day that Jesus rose from the dead. Christians remember Maundy Thursday as the day of the Last Supper, when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and established the ceremony known as the Eucharist. In the UK Easter is one of the major Christian festivals of the year. It is full of customs, folklore and traditional food. However, Easter in Britain has its beginnings long before the arrival of Christianity. Many theologians believe Easter itself is named after the Anglo-Saxon goddess of the dawn and spring – Eostre.
In Britain, the Queen takes part in the Ceremony of the Royal Maundy, which dates back to Edward 1. This involves the distribution of Maundy Money to deserving senior citizens (one man and one woman for each year of the sovereign’s age), usually chosen for having done service to their community. They receive ceremonial red and white purses which contain coins made especially for the occasion. The white purse contains one coin for each year of the monarch’s reign. The red purse contains money in place of other gifts that used to be given to the poor.
In the 17th century, the King or Queen would wash the feet of the selected poor people as a gesture of humility, and in remembrance of Jesus’s washing the feet of the disciples. The last monarch to do this was James II.
Easter eggs are a very old tradition going to a time before Christianity. Eggs after all are a symbol of spring and new life. In the UK before they were replaced by chocolate, real eggs were hard-boiled and dyed in various colours and patterns. The traditionally bright colours represented spring and light. Sadly, nowadays if you gave a child in Britain a hard-boiled egg on Easter Sunday, you would probably end up wearing it!
An older more traditional game is one in which real eggs are rolled against one another or down a hill. The owner of the egg that stayed un-cracked the longest won. Even today in Preston, Lancashire, they still carry out the custom of hard boiled eggs being rolled down slopes to see whose egg goes furthest.
Children hunt for Easter eggs (normally chocolate) hidden about the home or garden by the Easter bunny. The Easter bunny however may actually be an Easter hare. The hare was allegedly a companion of the ancient Moon goddess and of Eostre. The first edible Easter bunnies appeared in Germany during the early 1800s, they were made of pastry and sugar.
The Friday before Easter Sunday and the Monday after are a bank holiday in the UK. Over Easter schools in the UK close for two weeks, just enough time to digest all the chocolate!!