EASTER IN BRITAIN AND IN
They say ‘so many countries, so many customs.’ It’s natural,
that different countries have different cultures, different customs and traditions. Each
nationality has its own features. For example, the English are said to be very
conservative, while the Russian are said to be generous and plain. But, as we all are
creatures of our God, The Lord and Creator, we have much in common.
Both Russia and the United Kingdom are Christian countries, so the main
Christian holidays in our countries are the same: Christmas and Easter, although in Russia
we celebrate these holidays 13 days later than in Britain. Russians celebrate Christmas on
7th January, while the English celebrate it on 25th December. Until 1918, Russia had the
Julian calendar, whilst the majority of European countries had adopted the Gregorian
calendar long before. By this time the accumulated difference between the calendars was 13
days. Thus, the same holiday had different dates in Europe and in Russia. The Russian
state took the decision to join the Gregorian system of chronology in 1918. The Russian
Orthodox Church, however, stuck to the so-called “old style” (the Julian calendar),
hence the different dates.
Easter is the major Christian holiday. This year Easter is celebrated
on the 5th of May in Russia.
The word “Easter” comes from Anglo-Saxon “Eostre”, which is the
name of the Goddess of Spring and Dawn. Easter is the major holiday in the Christian world
because on this day Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
The Russian word “Пасха” comes from the Greek “pascha”
which comes from the Hebrew “pesakh” meaning Passover. This is a Jewish spring holiday
which dates back to the days of the Old Testament. After the Pharaoh would not let the
people of Israel leave Egypt, God killed every first-born in Egypt. However, he spared
(passed over) Jewish families who marked their thresholds with lamb’s blood.
Western Christians celebrate Easter on the first Sunday after the full
moon that occurs upon or following the vernal equinox (March 21st). It means that Easter
can fall between March 22nd and April 25th. This rule was fixed in the 8th century. In the
Eastern Orthodox Church, however, a slightly different calculation is followed. As a
result, the Orthodox Easier, although sometimes coinciding with that of the West, can fall
one, four, or five weeks later.
In the 20th century, the possibility of a fixed date for Easter has
been discussed and supported among some Christians; adoption would depend on agreement
being reached among the various churches. The second Sunday in April has been proposed.
Some Easter observances are older than Christianity. Eggs, for example,
have always been a traditional symbol of resurrection and re-birth. As such, they were
attached to spring ceremonies all over the world well before Christianity, most notably in
China and ancient Egypt.
Nowadays Easter eggs are usually made of chocolate, marzipan, and other
types of confectionery. Many households still dye, colour, or decorate genuine hard-boiled
eggs. The most traditional colour for dyeing eggs is red. This comes from the legend that
Our Lady stood below the cross with a basket of eggs, and the eggs were splattered with
the blood of Christ.
Another popular Easter symbol in Britain is the Easter hare (or Easter
Bunny as it is known in America. The strong influence of the USA means that in Britain the
Easter hare is now more often referred to as an Easter Bunny). It was believed in Celtic
times that the hare chased away the spirit of winter. Hares and rabbits are also a symbol
of fertility since they often have multiple births. Some English children spend the Easter
morning hunting for eggs that the Easter Hare has hidden from them, and the child who
finds the most eggs wins a prize. In some parts of Britain the custom of eating hare pie
One of the best known of Easter customs, which has a long history, is
Easter parades, or Easter Bonnet parades as they are called in the U.K. They originated
with the tradition of buying new clothes for Easter which people wore to church. After
church services, everyone went for a walk around the town. The most famous parades are
along Fifth Avenue in New York and in Battersea Park in London.
Egg-rolling is a traditional Easter pastime which still flourishes in
Northern England, Scotland, Ulster, the Isle of Man, and Switzerland. It takes place on
Easter Sunday, or Monday, and consists of rolling coloured, hard-boiled eggs down a slope
until they are cracked and broken after which they are eaten by their owners. In some
districts this is a competitive game, the winner being the player whose egg remains
longest undamaged, but more usually the fun consists simply of the rolling and eating.
This is evidently the older form of the custom, since egg-rolling does not appear to have
been originally a game to be lost or won. At the beginning of the 20th century we had the
same tradition in Russia, but it was lost after the Revolution.
There are two Christian holidays in Britain besides Easter and
Christmas which are state holidays. It is Easter Monday and Good Friday. In Russia these
holidays are not state recognized.
On Good Friday bakers sell hot cross buns, which are toasted and eaten
with butter. Easter Monday is a holiday and many people travel to the seaside for the day
or go and watch one of many sporting events such as football and horse-racing.
By Ludmila Yakushina