Easter 2018: What do chocolate eggs and magic rabbits have to do with the crucifixion of Jesus Christ?

How does the Passion relate to toasted tea cakes?

Joe Sommerlad
Friday 30 March 2018 15:26 BST
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Easter is a Christian celebration observed every year in late March or early April to remember the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

But what does the story of the execution of the "Son of God" by Roman soldiers 2,000 years ago have to do with chocolate eggs and magic rabbits?

According to the Bible's New Testament, Jesus was betrayed by his disciple Judas Iscariot in exchange for 30 pieces of silver following the Last Supper and was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Interrogated by the high priest Caiaphas as to whether he really was "the Anointed One" as he claimed, Jesus's reply was enough to see him hauled before Pontius Pilate, prefect of Judea.

Pilate heard the case against Jesus, who was accused of being a subversive influence, referred the matter to King Herod and finally asked the people of Jerusalem what they would have him do with the prophet.

The mob bayed for his crucifixion as a blasphemer and Pilate finally assented, pointedly washing his hands of the condemnation but consenting in order to prevent a riot.

Jesus dragged his cross to Calvary Hill on Good Friday 30AD where he was put to death, flanked on either side by two petty criminals sentenced to the same fate.

Christ writhed in agony for six hours from the wounds to his bound hands and feet and the mocking crown of thorns pressing into his forehead, during which time the sky is said to have darkened as he cried out: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

Christ Carrying The Cross by El Greco
Christ Carrying The Cross by El Greco (Alfredo Dagli Orti/Rex)

He finally passed away with a terrible cry as the earth shook, the Gospels tell us. A centurion subsequently pierced his side with a lance to ascertain whether he was really dead.

Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, secret acolytes, took Jesus's body and buried him in a tomb carved into a nearby rock face, binding him in a clean linen shroud and treating his flesh with myrrh and aloes before rolling a boulder in front of its entrance.

Two days later, Mary Magdalene arrived to find the grave empty. Jesus appeared resurrected before her - a miracle interpreted by Christians as final proof of the divine on earth - and before his 11 remaining disciples in Galilee thereafter, before ascending to the heavens 40 days later, vowing to return one day.

Christians around the world relive these events every year with masses, services and processions (see Mexico's spectacular interpretation below) while the Passion of Jesus has been immortalised in devotional art and music for centuries.

The annual festival begins with Lent on Ash Wednesday, 46 days before Easter Sunday, takes in Ascension Day 39 days later and ends with Pentecost or Whitsun 10 days after that, the last date honouring the Holy Spirit.

Lent is a period of self-denial that sees worshippers refrain from luxuries for 40 days (excluding Sundays) in the run-up to Easter Sunday, a deprivation intended as a daily reminder of Christ's far greater sacrifice.

The period is celebrated with cakes, hot cross buns and chocolate eggs, treats representing the crucifixion and rebirth, while lilies decorate church chancels to evoke resurrection.

These symbols - and Easter's timing close to the onset of spring - tie it to the Jewish Passover, as does the etymology of the word "Easter", which is derived from "Eastre" the Germanic Old English translation of "Passover".

The Easter Bunny and the associated egg hunt obviously played no part in the Passion and originates instead from German Lutheran traditions as an amusement for children.

Loosely aligned with the Virgin Mary as a symbol of miraculous fertility, the "Easter Hare" was originally envisioned in 17th century folklore as being akin to Father Christmas, judging children on their behaviour and deciding whether they deserved seasonal confections or not.

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