As golden daffodils gild her lush green meadows so an ancient pagan tradition blends with Christian sacrament to make Britain’s spring a kaleidoscope of colour, hope and optimism. Easter comes from Ostara; the Anglo-Saxon goddess of fertility who brought the world back to life after winter’s borrowed likeness of shrunk death.
In spring flowers are abundant and adorn the brightly beribboned bonnets of the children who take part in Easter parades across Britain. The parading children clutch baskets stuffed with flowers, bunnies, chicks and painted eggs.
The symbol of Easter, eggs were popular long before the Romans gave them as prizes in Easter races. Children still hunt eggs left by the Easter bunny on Easter Sunday. Adults and children also enjoy the Easter egg roll, trying to roll an egg as far as possible down a hill without it breaking.
Few of the millions of chocolate eggs given as presents every year are left unbroken by the end of Easter, but eggs are not the only traditional food. Hot Cross Buns, small, spicy buns with a cross marked on the top, are another symbol of Easter.
Beltane, the last Celtic spring festival, fell on May Day. Caesar and his legions substituted Flora, the goddess of flowers, and Maia, the goddess of spring after whom May is named. Flora’s blossoms still beautify the costumes of the Morris dancers on May Day, when many villages erect a maypole around which dancers weave long ribbons into a tightly woven, intricate design.
Often overlooked, the miracle of Easter is best remembered in Longfellow’s words: “If spring came but once a century instead of once a year, or burst forth with the sound of an earthquake and not in silence, what wonder and expectation there would be in all hearts to behold the miraculous change.”