Our word Easter comes from Eostremonath, the Anglo-Saxon word for April, which in turn was named after the Pagan goddess Eostre. Rituals related to Eostre focused on new beginnings, and legend has it that she once found a wounded bird and turned it into a hare that retained its ability to lay eggs. Could that be where the Easter bunny came from?

But Christians celebrated the resurrection of Jesus long before the word Easter was used. They called the celebration Pascha, which comes from the Jewish festival of Passover. Jesus was sharing a Passover meal with his disciples on the day before he died. Y



Easter is what is known as a moveable feast, because the date changes each year. And it’s all because of the moon! Easter Sunday always falls on the first Sunday following the full moon on or after 21st March (the vernal equinox). If the full moon falls on a Sunday, then Easter is the following Sunday. Therefore Easter Sunday can fall anywhere between March 22nd and April 25th.

In 2016, the first full moon after the vernal equinox is on 23rd March, so Easter Sunday is on 25th March.


Many churches hold an outdoor sunrise service on Easter Sunday, often on a hillside, so that everyone can watch the sun come up together. Fairlight Church normally holds a service on the Firehills.

Making an Easter garden is another Christian tradition: a stone is placed across the mouth of a tomb before Easter, and then rolled away on Easter Sunday morning.

Churches are often decorated with flowers, a beautiful contrast to the austerity of Lent. The Eucharist or Communion at Easter is a particularly joyful occasion, and many people see Easter as a time for baptism or renewing their baptismal vows. 



Palm Sunday falls on the Sunday before Easter and marks the beginning of Holy Week. It commemorates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem on a donkey, an event mentioned in all four Gospels. The Bible tells us that when Jesus entered Jerusalem, the crowds greeted him by praising him and waving palm branches. However, it is the beginning of his journey to the cross.

Read the story from the donkey's point of view:


"Grandad, tell me about the time you carried the king through the city."

"You must have heard that story a hundred times, lad."

"But Grandad, I like hearing it."

"Oh, all right then. It was a long time ago, but I remember it as if it were yesterday.  I must have been about your age, never been ridden before. One day I was standing there minding my own business when along come these two strangers who start untying me.  'What's going on here then?' I think to myself. As luck would have it the mistress of the house looked out of the window just then and saw them. 'What do you think you're doing?' she asked. And they gave the strangest answer: 'The Master needs him, we'll send him home again,' just like that. And she let them take me without another word (she wasn't normally one to be lost for words, I can tell you).

Just up the road I saw a crowd of folk gathered round a man who seemed to be talking to them. An ordinary sort of chap, I thought, kind face though.  I wondered if this was the one they called the Master. As we approached, the two men leading me put their coats on my back to make a kind of saddle. And this man climbed on my back.  I didn't mind; he was gentle enough. He told me we were going to the city. Everyone seemed very excited.  Folk were throwing their coats down on the ground in front of us and others were cutting branches off the palm trees and throwing those on the ground too. They were a bit funny to walk on, but this Master seemed like a nice chap, so I made up my mind to do my best and hold him steady.  Everyone was cheering and clapping as we walked along, shouting things like 'Long live the king!' and 'Hosanna in the highest!' I felt quite important myself, and very proud that he'd chosen me!

We got to the city at last and I went as far as the temple. Master got down and thanked me, thanked humble old me, can you imagine, and said I could go home. I knew my way; I'd been with the folks at home a few times to carry stuff home from the market. So off I trotted. I felt a bit strange inside, like something important was going to happen. I thought about this Master all the way home. Such kind eyes he had, so full of love and compassion. I shall never forget him as long as I live.

I never saw him again. Your Uncle Ned said his name was Jesus. He heard people talking about him in the market square. He said not long after that Jesus was arrested and sentenced to death. I don't know what he was supposed to have done. I heard he healed sick people - got the lame to walk again, made blind people see, that sort of thing. I can't imagine anyone like that hurting so much as a fly. Nailed him to a cross they did and left him to die. Horrible. But do you know, a couple of days later, when his friends went to see his body, it had gone, vanished! And by some miracle he'd come back to life. Lots of people saw him. I just knew there was something special about him. 

I've thought about him lots of times since then. And whenever I feel like grumbling about something, I think about Jesus and that special time we had together. I think about how much he must have suffered, and somehow I don't feel like grumbling any more."


Jesus and his disciples were staying with their friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus, who had a house in Bethany – a village about 2 miles outside Jerusalem.

Jesus went to visit the temple in Jerusalem. The temple courtyards had been turned into a marketplace, with people buying and selling, changing money, and haggling over the price of cattle. In a fury, Jesus threw over the tables of the money-changers and drove out the traders with their oxen and sheep. "The house of God is a house of prayer," he thundered, "but you have turned it into a den of thieves!"


Jesus returned to Jerusalem with his disciples and to begin to teaching in the temple. The chief priests and teachers of the law were waiting for him. They asked Jesus who had given him permission to teach there, but he replied with a question that they could not answer. They began looking for an excuse to arrest him, but did not dare move against him in front of the crowd for fear of a riot.


At the house in Bethany, Mary came to Jesus with a jar of precious ointment. Breaking the jar, she gently rubbed his feet with it, wiping them clean with her hair, so that the house was filled with its sweet perfume. Judas Iscariot was shocked that Mary had used something so expensive - equivalent to about a year's wage to a labourer - but Jesus said, "Leave her alone. She has done a beautiful thing for me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. By anointing me with this perfume, she is preparing me for the day of my burial. What she has done will always be remembered."

Meanwhile the priests, scribes and elders, who were members of the Jewish council, met at the house of Caiaphas, the high priest to discuss what they could do about Jesus. Their problem was solved when Judas went to them in secret and offered to betray him for thirty pieces of silver. From then on, Judas never left Jesus' side, looking for an opportunity to hand him over to the Jewish council. For this reason the day is sometimes known as Spy Wednesday.


Jesus made plans for the Passover meal, now known as the Last Supper. He told Peter and John to go into Jerusalem, where they would see a man carrying a jar of water. They were to follow the man and ask the owner of the house to show them the room where the Teacher could celebrate Passover with his disciples. Peter and John did as Jesus asked, and when everything was ready, Jesus arrived and went into the room upstairs. Putting a towel around his waist, he began to wash the feet of the disciples, as an example that all of them were equal.

Jesus knew that it would be his last meal, and that he would soon be betrayed, arrested, condemned and executed. He blessed the bread and broke it, saying to them, "Take this and eat it, for it is my body." Then he blessed the wine and passed round his cup, saying, "Drink this, for this is my blood." In doing this he gave the bread and wine a new symbolic meaning. The Jesus looked at each man in turn, his eyes full of sorrow. "One of you sitting here will betray me." They were all horrified, wondering which of them it could be. Jesus answered, "The one to whom I give this bread." Then he took a piece of bread, dipped it into the dish in front of him, and gave it to Judas. "Do whatever you have to do," he told him, "but do it quickly." Judas got up from the table and hurried out into the night.

After supper, Jesus and his disciples walked to a garden called Gethsamane. His heart was full of sadness. He asked his disciples to keep watch while he prayed, but when he returned, they were asleep. "Could you not keep awake for just one hour?" he asked them, "Please keep watch while I pray". Again he went away to pray and again the disciples fell asleep, for their eyes were heavy. A third time this happened, then Jesus said, "No matter: the hour is come. The traitor is here."

As he spoke, Judas arrived, followed by a large number of men sent by the high priest, all armed with clubs and swords, and carrying burning torches. Judas went up to Jesus and kissed him on the cheek: this was the pre-arranged signal. Immediately two men seized Jesus and held him tightly. Peter drew his sword and cut off the ear of one of the guards. Jesus rebuked Peter, telling him to put away his sword. He touched the ear of the soldier and at once it was whole again. Then Jesus was led away to the house of Caiaphas. The time was around 11.30 pm.


Shortly after 3am Jesus was brought before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin. Determined to find him guilty, they had bribed witnesses to lie about Jesus, but nobody could produce convincing evidence against him. Eventually, two men came forward who had heard Jesus say he could destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days.

“What do you say to this?” demanded Caiaphas. Jesus remained silent. Caiaphas spoke again. “Are you the Son of God?”

“I am,” Jesus quietly replied.

“Then we need no more evidence!” Caiaphas shouted in triumph. “No man can be the Son of God, and the punishment for blasphemy is death!” At this, the members of the council crowded round Jesus, jeering and spitting in his face. Bound and blindfolded, he was taken to Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor of Judea.

Earlier Jesus had told Peter that he would disown him three times before the night was over, but Peter denied that this could ever happen. Jesus was now under arrest and being interrogated by Caiaphas. Peter followed at a safe distance, but was recognised by a servant. "Were you not with Jesus of Galilee?" she asked. "No, I don't know him," Peter quickly replied.

A second girl approached him, saying to her companion, "This is one of the men who was with Jesus of Nazareth." "I know no-one of that name," answered Peter, backing away. By now several people had gathered round and were looking at him curiously. "Surely you are one of the disciples?" asked one, "You speak with a Galilean accent." Peter turned on them angrily. "Have I not told you? I do not even know the man you are talking about!"

At these words, a cock crowed and Peter, suddenly remembering Jesus' words, walked out of the courtroom and wept.

At around 6 am, Jesus was brought before Pilate. “Are you the king of the Jews?” he asked.

“It is as you say,” replied Jesus.

Then Jesus was silent, much to Pilate’s amazement, as this was an act of defiance in the presence of a Roman authority. However, he could find no fault with Jesus, and thought the council had brought Jesus to him, as they were either jealous or scared.

It was the custom to release a prisoner at Passover. Pilate went out and asked the crowd who had gathered, “Who shall I free, Barabbas the murderer, or Jesus?” He thought, given this choice, that the people would free Jesus. But the chief priests and councillors, determined that Jesus would die, persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas. “Then what shall I do with Jesus?” he asked the crowd.

“Crucify him!” came the cry.

“Why? What crime has he committed?”

But the crowd shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

Pilate could not believe what he was hearing. He asked for a bowl of water and publicly washed his hands, indicating that he wanted no part in Jesus’ death. He gave the order for Barabbas to be released, and had Jesus flogged before handing him over to the guard.

As Jesus was led away to be crucified, he was met by Simon of Cyrene. At once the guards seized Simon and forced him to help carry the cross. When they reached Calvary, one of the soldiers offered Jesus a drink of wine mixed with myrrh, but he turned away his head. Then they raised him on the cross, placing above him the mocking inscription, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” The time was about 9.00 am.

The guards drew lots for his clothing before sitting down to keep watch. As people passed by the cross, they taunted Jesus. “If you are the son of God, why don’t you save yourself?” they jeered. Then Jesus said, “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Two were robbers were also crucified, one on either side of Jesus. One of the criminals insulted Jesus, but the other defended him. Jesus said to this man, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” At noon, everything became dark, a darkness which lasted until 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Then Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Hearing the cry, one of the men ran to fetch a sponge soaked in vinegar, which he put on a pole and held up to Jesus’ lips. Jesus cried, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit,” and his head fell lifeless onto his chest. At that moment, the curtain in the Temple was ripped from top to bottom, and a tremor was felt in the depths of the earth. One of the centurions who had been keeping watch said, “Truly, this man was the son of God.” Many people began to feel afraid.

That evening, a rich man from Arimathea arrived. He was a member of the Jewish council, but also one of Jesus’ followers. He had come to ask Pilate if he could take down Jesus’ body from the cross. Pilate gave his permission, so Joseph, helped by a man called Nicodemus, anointed Jesus’ body with myrrh and aloes, wrapped him in a clean linen cloth, and laid him in a tomb cut into the rock.


Saturday was the Sabbath, a day set aside for rest and made holy by God. Observation and remembrance of the Sabbath was one of the Ten Commandments given to Moses. Jesus’ followers probably spent the day in quiet mourning. Holy Saturday marks the end of Lent.


Very early in the morning, when it was still dark, Mary Magdalene arrived at the tomb. To her astonishment, the great stone covering the entrance had been rolled away. Jesus’ body had gone. She ran to find Peter and John. “They have taken the Lord from the tomb,” she told them.

The two men hurried to the tomb. When they looked inside, they saw the burial cloth lying on the ground. Wondering what had happened, they returned home. Mary stayed by the tomb, weeping. She looked up to see two angels sitting where the body of Jesus had been. “Why are you weeping?” they asked.

“Because they have taken away my Lord,” she answered. As she spoke, she turned around and saw a man standing beside her. It was Jesus, although Mary did not recognise him. “Why are you weeping?” he asked. Thinking he was the gardener, she asked him if he knew where the body had been taken. “Mary, it is I!”

“My Lord!” she cried, her face full of joy.

“Go now,” he told her. “Tell my friends that you have seen me and that soon I will be with my Father in heaven.” Mary ran back to tell the disciples the good news that Jesus was alive.



Before chocolate became popular, birds' eggs were given at Easter, painted in bright colours. Eggs symbolised new life: although they appear empty, like the tomb, birds hatch from them. For Christians, eggs are a reminder that Jesus rose from the grave, and that those who believe will experience everlasting life.

Early Christians stained their eggs red, in memory of the blood Jesus shed. By the Middle Ages, eggs for Easter were brightly coloured, like Spring flowers. In 1290 King Edward I ordered 450 eggs to be gold leafed and coloured to give as gifts.

Pace eggs are hard boiled eggs with patterned shells, given to friends and relatives as a gesture of goodwill. They are made by sticking leaves or flowers onto the shell and then boiling the eggs in water containing onion skins to stain them brown. The name comes from Pesach (Passover).  Popular in the North-East of England, it was customary to jarp with the eggs before eating them - that is to knock your egg against your opponent's, with the idea of breaking it while leaving your own intact (rather like conkers).

Egg rolling is a popular Easter Monday sport. Rules vary, but the winner may be the one that rolls the furthest, survives the longest or reaches a target. It is thought the rolling egg represents the rolling away of the stone from Jesus' tomb.

Easter postcards were first sent in late Victorian times, when a stationer added a greeting to a picture of a rabbit. The cards became very popular.

As chocolate became more widely available, chocolate eggs were produced. These were often brightly coloured, and were originally hollow. In Britain we now buy more than 80 million Easter eggs each year! Many children take part in an egg hunt, when small chocolate eggs are hidden for children to find.


Out of the 80 million chocolate Easter eggs sold each year in the UK, The Real Easter Egg is the first and only Fairtrade chocolate Easter egg to explain the Christian understanding of Easter.

We also give a sizeable donation from profits and Fairtrade Premium fees, to our farmers allowing them to invest in their community buying everything from school books and solar panels to providing fresh water.

The Real Easter Egg is now in its sixth year of production with more than a million sold so far.

There are four types of Real Easter Egg available for 2016: The Original, Special Edition and Dark eggs come with a redesigned story booklet in the shape of a cross by the noted children’s illustrator, Helen Cann, which will delight children and adults with its presentation of the Gospel story. There is also a Sharing Mox containing 30 migs and 30 copies of the Easter story/activity poster.


After the long winter, and after the restrictions of Lent, Easter Day is associated with special food. Hot cross buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday, marking the end of Lent and representing the crucifixion of Jesus.

Some people have boiled eggs for breakfast on Easter Sunday. Roast lamb (a tradition from Passover) is the traditional meat for lunch. Easter biscuits are a traditional teatime treat, as is Simnel cake, once given on Mothering Sunday, but now often served at Easter. 


While many countries have similar traditions to us, there are many unique customs associated with particular countries and cultures. Here are just a few of them:


In Norway, the holiday begins on Maundy Thursday. People often go up to the mountains and the snow, commemorating the ‘fool’ who left the safety of his tribe and followed the retreating ice (at the end of the last Ice Age) and discovered Norway. This time of the year marks the end of the long dark winter, and people like to clean and decorate their homes in the colours of summer.

When they are tired from skiing, people like to come home to a good Easter crime session (Påskekrim) - they like to read a murder mystery novel or watch a detective mini-series on television. Homes are sometimes decorated with birch branches decorated with coloured feathers.

Easter treats: Fastelavnsbolle are traditional sweet buns eaten on Shrove Tuesday. Easter Sunday breakfast is a great celebration; people enjoy cured meats and especially eggs – boiled, scrambled, fried, and even fish eggs! The boiled eggs are often dyed or painted before eating. Oranges are popular at Easter*, as they are a symbol of the long and sunny days ahead after the darkness of winter, and orange cake is a traditional treat.

*Norway – a country with just 5 million people - consumes over 20 million oranges in just a couple of days!


In Sweden, there are superstitions attached to Easter: people thought that witches were especially active and their black magic particularly powerful at this time. On Maundy Thursday, they were thought to fly off on their broomsticks to consort with the devil at Blåkulla (the blue mountain) returning the following Saturday. In olden times people protected themselves by painting a cross on their doors and hiding their brooms so the witches could not fly on them. These days, children dress up as hags in discarded clothes, headscarves, and with painted red cheeks.  They visit their neighbours, leaving a small decorated card, hoping for a coin or sweet in return.

Like other countries in Scandinavia, homes are often decorated with birch branches decorated with coloured feathers. It is not the Easter bunny that brings children chocolate eggs, but the Easter hare.

Easter treats: eggs are a popular Easter food, often eaten hard-boiled on the evening before Easter Sunday. Pickled herrings and Jansson’s Temptation (potatoes, onions and anchovies or pickled sprats baked in cream) are traditional dishes.


In the Cech Republic, boys get out their whips – but just for fun! On Easter Monday, it is an old custom for the boys to chase the girls with braided whips, which is said to bring them health and beauty. In exchange, the girls give the boys brightly painted eggs. Easter Monday is ‘open house’ when anyone can drop in. It is traditional to serve guests a small glass of plum brandy.

The first signs of Velikonoce (Easter) are the markets that open up all over the city. The stalls sell traditional hand decorated Easter eggs, and gingerbreads baked in the shape of lambs, eggs and even chicks. A special food eaten at Easter is Mazanec, a sweet, yeasted bread made with rum soaked raisins and topped with almonds.


In France, Shrove Tuesday is referred to as Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday. Church bells normally ring joyfully during the year, but they all stop ringing on Maundy Thursday, and are silent for a few days while people remember the death of Jesus. Children are told that the bells have gone to Rome to see the Pope.

On Easter Sunday morning, the bells ring out, telling people that Jesus is alive again. When people hear the bells, they kiss and hug one another. Many children wake to find eggs in their rooms, or they look at the nests they have placed in their gardens and find them filled with eggs. They are told the bells have brought them back from Rome.

In the village of Haux in southwestern France, they make a giant omelette on Easter Monday: last year 5012 eggs were used! The omelette is cooked in a 12-foot frying pan. Anyone who happens to be around - and lots of people come to watch this annual custom - gets to share the lunchtime feast.


In Poland, Easter is an important occasion, and preparations are as elaborate as Christmas. People celebrate Easter with a Blessing Basket. On Easter Saturday, baskets of Easter food are taken to church to be blessed. The baskets contain traditional Easter foods: brightly coloured hard-boiled eggs; sausages – a wish for enough food for the year; bread and salt, for good health and a prosperous life; cheese, marzipan, and babka, a ring cake containing many eggs. Another traditional dish, often used as a centrepiece for the Easter table, is a woolly lamb carved out of butter, the Baranek Wielkanochy.

Lent was kept very strictly in Poland; people could not eat any meat, milk, cheese or sugar. Herrings were often a main source of protein, but by Easter, people were so tired of them, they celebrated the funeral of the herring on Good Friday to mark the end of Lent. The offending fish (or their bones) were hung in trees or buried outside the village.

Pisanki are Easter eggs, handcrafted in traditional designs that recall pagan symbols of fertility and spring.

Easter Monday is a family holiday in Poland and is called Smigus Dyngus or Wet Monday, after the practice of men and boys pouring water on women and girls. It is said that girls who get caught and soaked with water will marry within the year. However in recent years, the girls have been allowed to get their own back on Tuesday and soak the boys!


In Greece, Easter is the most important religious holiday of the Greek Orthodox calendar, with traditions for each day of Holy Week:

On Holy Monday, people to go church and kiss the icon of Jesus.

On Holy Tuesday, women bake Easter biscuits, koulouraki, for Saturday.

On Holy Wednesday, there is a church service in which worshippers are blessed with oil. All household chores must be finished today.

On Maundy Thursday, women dye eggs red to symbolise the blood of Christ, and bake Easter bread – tsoureki.

Good Friday is the most sacred day of the week and a day of mourning. The church bells ring the death knell all morning. Girls decorate the Epitafio – the funeral bier and a service is held for Jesus’ funeral. Today is a day of rest for women and men are forbidden to play cards. At dusk the Epitafio is paraded through the village or town streets with the people quietly walking behind.

On Easter Saturday, there is a service in the morning, and the church is filled with flowers. Men prepare lambs for Easter Sunday and the women bake kalitsounia, cheese pies. In Crete children make an effigy of Judas to burn on bonfires at the midnight celebration. In Corfu, people throw pots out of their windows, smashing them on the street below to exorcise death and evil spirits.

The Anastasi, the Resurrection, takes place at midnight. Everyone attends church for the special service and the lighting of the Holy Flame. The Priest passes the Holy Flame throughout the congregation and all light a candle with cries of ‘Christos Anesti’ (Christ is risen). Fireworks are let off in celebration. People take their lit candles home and make the sign of a cross with the black from the candle flame in the doorway of their homes before entering, and then eat meat soup with the red eggs and cheese pies.

On Easter Sunday families and friends meet up for the roasting of lamb outside on a big spit and a big celebration party with food, wine, music and dancing all day long.


In Australia, Easter is celebrated in much the same way as in the UK, but with one big difference: whereas it occurs in spring in the Northern Hemisphere (and often incorporates spring rituals) Easter occurs in autumn in countries like Australia in the Southern Hemisphere.

In Sydney, there is an agricultural show known as "the Royal Easter Show", which has displays of the countries best produce, farm animals, parades, rides, fireworks, food, sideshows and fun.

Rather than the bunny, the Australians prefer the Bilby as the symbol for Easter as it is native to Australia, and because rabbits are considered a pest, causing damage to the environment. Children enjoy their chocolate and in the process, are helping to protect the endangered bilby, as many manufacturers donate a proportion of their profits to bilby conservation charities.


In Canada, the people of Quebec City hold a carnival known as the Winter Carnival with a big parade and special sporting events such as skating, skiing, and tobogganing.

While eggs are forbidden during Lent in Quebec, after fasting they are enjoyed in maple syrup. Vegreville in Alberta is home to the world’s largest pysanka, an elaborately decorated egg created in 1975 to mark the town’s Ukranian heritage. The eggs weighs 2.5 tonnes and is a popular tourist attraction.


In Brazil, the world's most famous carnivals, in Rio de Janeiro, is held before Lent. Carnival means ‘goodbye to meat’. Some groups of people spend all year preparing for the carnival. They make costumes, practise music and dances for the parades. Other people make floats for the parade. It is a time for dancing, eating and drinking before the fasting of Lent.

Holy Week in Brazil begins with the blessing of the palm branches, which are woven in intricate patterns representing crosses, banners, letters, and other related objects. Streets are decorated with coloured patterns drawn on the road surface over which a procession walks, carrying statues of Mary and the body of Christ. Special candy called pacoca, is made from peanuts and sugar, and given to visitors.

On Easter Saturday, Carnival makes a brief reappearance with a Hangover Ball to celebrate the hanging of Judas.

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Bretherton Endowed CE Primary School

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PR26 9AH

Headteacher & SENDCO | Mrs A Moxham


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