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19 Mar 2020

Easter in Scotland

A close up of a host of bright yellow daffodils, set against a bright blue sky background.
While we’re undoubtedly facing an Easter unlike ever before, there are still plenty of ways to enjoy this special time.

A brief history of Easter

Easter is a Christian religious holiday that celebrates the resurrection of Christ, and it has been celebrated, according to records, since the 2nd century.

As with lots of modern holidays, though, some of our favourite Easter traditions have their roots in paganism and Judaism. There’s even debate between historians over the origins of the word ‘Easter’ itself – some maintain that it comes from Eostre (or Eostrae), an Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and fertility, while others believe that it derives from alba, the Latin for ‘dawn’, which became eostarum in Old High German.

The Easter weekend begins with Good Friday and signals the end of Lent, a 40-day period of fasting and penance. It always takes place in spring, but it’s what’s known as a ‘moveable feast’, meaning that the exact date of Easter Sunday changes every year and can fall on any Sunday between 22 March and 25 April – although even this rule changes depending on where in the world you are and whether you subscribe to the Gregorian or Julian calendar.

Here in Scotland, no matter when we celebrate Easter, it’s always a time for families to spend time together, relax and enjoy some fun traditions …

Easter traditions

Lots of small, brightly coloured, foil-covered mini chocolate eggs

Eggs are synonymous with Easter – we decorate them, hunt for them, roll them and eat them. The history of Easter eggs goes back to medieval Europe and the Anglo-Saxon pagans, who celebrated the coming of spring by worshipping the goddess Eostre. As part of their celebrations, they’d supposedly bury eggs, a symbol of fertility, in the ground.

Easter eggs can come in chocolate form, wrapped in gold foil, but we also love to dye or paint the real thing. In fact, there’s evidence of dyed and decorated eggs in British history dating back to 1290, when Edward I bought 450 eggs for Easter to be covered in gold leaf and shared out among the ‘royal entourage’.

Easter egg hunts became popular during the Victorian era, when the holiday became more family focused. Colourful (and mostly edible) eggs are hidden for children to collect, and the Easter Bunny often pays a visit – rabbits are another symbol of birth and fertility.

From Easter eggs and bunnies to Easter bonnets and straw-lined baskets, there are lots of things to love about Easter. And we haven’t even got to lunch yet …

Easter food

A simnel cake, showing a round fruit cake topped with a layer of marzipan and 11 marzipan balls around the edge.
Simnel cake

Just like other major holidays, Easter has its own food traditions that Scottish families have been sticking to for years. Roast lamb is the meal most associated with Easter Sunday – the tradition of eating lamb on Easter has its roots in early Passover observances.

And a Scottish holiday wouldn’t be complete without some baked goodies. Simnel cake is packed with fruits and spices, and covered in marzipan – traditional cakes have 11 marzipan balls on top as well, to represent the 11 apostles (minus Judas). Hot cross buns are sweet rolls studded with raisins or currants, marked with a cross on top, and enjoyed by the boxload every Easter. The story goes that they were invented by a monk who was inspired to celebrate Good Friday by putting crucifixes on his rolls. However these delicious treats came to be, we’re very grateful for them!

Easter activities for kids

An example of a flat cardboard chick decoration

And here comes the fun part! To get everyone in the mood (and to work up a nice appetite for your Sunday lunch), have a go at some of these Easter activities that are fun for everyone, but especially the little ones.

For the ultimate Easter egg hunt, we recommend getting the children to paint eggs (make sure you blow them first) and make some simple crafty costumes and decorations. If you fancy yourself as a fashion designer, why not have a competition to see who can build the best Easter bonnet?

To make sure you’ve got lots of sweet treats to go around, give our delicious Easter recipes a go and make your own splendid traybakes and cupcakes. Whether you share them with anyone is entirely up to you ...

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