Easter is a precious time of the year. It is a holiday that also holds many different traditions, based on each family and culture. Growing up the Southern Hemisphere Easter was in Autumn. Pastel colors were not a main feature. Chicks and bunnies were still featured though. Once again, being an international family we have blended some things to create our own family tradition.
My Easter When Growing Up
In Australia, Easter is a 4 day weekend. Good Friday we went to church. After the service we would eat Hot Cross Buns. I do remember that it was difficult to concentrate sometimes at the Good Friday service because you could smell the Hot Cross Buns in the kitchen. So good. Sunday morning there was always a gift of chocolate eggs and we went to church again.
Another thing around Easter that was a huge part of growing up was the Royal Easter Show, which was an agricultural show with rides, show bags, etc. As children we LOVED to go, often saving up our money to buy those show bags (which were themed and had lots of sweet things.) I remember looking at the list of bags beforehand and working out the best value, what would give me the most bang for my buck. It was always a great family day and we would come home exhausted, usually because we were allowed to stay up late to make sure we got to see the car races, the demolition derbies and the fire works.
For my husband, Easter was also a 4 day weekend. They always got Easter presents, with chocolate of course. They went to church on Friday and Sunday as well. Fish was eaten on Good Friday.
As a family now, we are incorporating what we can for the girls. The faith tradition is by far the most important part for us. We do decorate eggs (hardboiled) and bake Hot Cross Buns. We do a family devotional time on Good Friday, usually because we still have to work, and read the whole Easter story. On Sunday the girls love that we hide their Easter presents, and they traipse around the backyard trying to find what we put out for them (always individually wrapped for longer search time). We don’t do the Easter Bunny so they know all the chocolate and gifts come from us. Church is a big celebration on Sunday (though not this year thanks to Covid-19) and we will often eat lunch with friends.
This is one of those Easter traditions that is just fun. The story of the Easter Bunny is thought to have become common in the 19th Century. Rabbits usually give birth to a big litter (and often), so they became a symbol of new life (and fertility). Legend has it that the Easter Bunny lays, decorates and hides eggs as they are also a symbol of new life. According to some sources, the Easter bunny first arrived in America in the 1700s with German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania and transported their tradition of an egg-laying hare called “Osterhase” or “Oschter Haws.” Their children made nests in which this creature could lay its colored eggs. Eventually, the custom spread across the U.S. and the fabled rabbit’s Easter morning deliveries expanded to include chocolate and other types of candy and gifts, while decorated baskets replaced nests.
The egg, an ancient symbol of new life, has several associations. It could be from Spring celebrations or from a Christian perspective, Easter eggs are said to represent Jesus’ emergence from the tomb and resurrection. Decorating eggs for Easter is a tradition that dates back to at least the 13th century. One explanation for this custom is that eggs were formerly a forbidden food during the Lenten season, so people would paint and decorate them to mark the end of the period of penance and fasting, then eat them on Easter as a celebration. Again, not enough is known as to the origins of this but it is still fun and has become a HUGE part of Easter celebrations.
Here are some fun facts about Easter eggs (bunnies and peeps):
- 18 million – Eggs decorated and dyed each year
- 90 million – Chocolate bunnies produced each year
- 500 million – Cadbury Creme Eggs made each year
- 700 million – Peeps eaten by Americans each year
Egg hunts are another thing that are steeped in tradition but no one really knows where it exactly comes from. The custom of the Easter egg hunt comes from Germany. Some suggest that its origins date back to the late 16th century, when the Protestant reformer Martin Luther organised egg hunts for his congregation. The men would hide the eggs for the women and children to find. This was a nod to the story of the resurrection, in which the empty tomb was discovered by women.
Over in England, as a child, Queen Victoria enjoyed egg hunts at Kensington Palace. These were put on by her mother, the German-born Duchess of Kent. Victoria and Albert continued this German tradition, hiding eggs for their own children to find on Maundy Thursday.
The custom grew and soon families all over the world were doing egg hunts and they are widely celebrated with today. Different countries have different methods…..whether chocolate eggs, plastic eggs filled with lollies or candies, or decorated hard boiled eggs. But not matter the egg, or the age, egg hunts are fun.
HOT CROSS BUNS
This has always been one of my favorite food items of Easter. This is one of my favorite Easter traditions. I miss the ease of buying them, though it seems that they come out in stores in Australia the day after Christmas and that seems a little too early. I can go to an Australian Bakery about an hour away, but never seem to really get there. Thankfully the girls like to bake and we make them together.
What is a Hot Cross Bun? It is a yeasted sweet bun that is lightly spiced and has raisins or currants, and marked with a cross on the top. Once upon a time they were reserved for eating on Good Friday only. There is no definitive reason as to why they are only for Easter, but there are several stories about their origins. The origins of hot cross buns may go back as far as the 12th century to an Anglican monk who baked buns and marked them with a cross in honor of Good Friday. Over time they gained popularity, and eventually became a symbol of Easter weekend. For many the cross represents, well, that is obvious, and the bun itself represents the stone that was rolled in front of the tomb.
I have been through many different recipes trying to find the right one. The following recipe is one that a friend sent me. I don’t know where she got it from, sorry. (Though if we want to make a very easy HCB, I just take my scone recipe, add some cinnamon and raisins/sultanas. It isn’t quite the same texture but when you want it easy, it’s the way to go.)
Hot Cross Buns Recipe
For the buns:
3 ½ cups all purpose flour (if using whole wheat then 3 ¼ cups flour and ¼ cup Vital Wheat Gluten)
2tsp fast rising yeast
1Tbsp milk powder
¼ cup sugar
1tsp mixed spice (or ½ tsp cinnamon, ½ tsp ground cloves, pinch nutmeg)
½ cup raisins (or can mix half raisins, half currants…..and we often add more)
2Tbsp melted butter
1 ⅓ cups water (heated to 100 degrees F)
For the crosses:
½ cup flour
½ cup water
For the glaze:
2Tbsp warm milk
- Mix together all the dry ingredients and fruit in a large bowl
- Add the water and butter and mix to moist stuff dough
- Knead in the mixer (if you have that capability) for 12 minutes or turn onto a floured board and knead for 10 mins
- Place in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and prove in a warm place for 30 minutes or until doubled
- Knead 10 turns, cut and shape into 12 buns
- Place in a greased pan (9×13 is good), cover with plastic wrap and prove for 40 minutes
- Lightly brush the buns with milk
- Prepare the mix for the crosses – mix together into a paste and place in a ziplock bag. Snip a very small corner off the bag and pipe the crosses.
- Bake at 415 degrees for 20-25 minutes
- Remove from oven and brush with sugar glaze
This is my “easy” recipe
….in that it is my scone recipe that we boost a little bit for quick and easy Hot Cross Buns.
For the buns:
2 cups self raising flour
⅔ cup milk
1 oz melted butter
1 ½ tablespoons sugar
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
½ cup raisins or currants or mix of both
Milk for glazing
For the cross:
½ cup flour
½ cup water
For the glaze:
2Tbsp warm milk
- Mix all ingredients together into a soft dough
- Knead it on a floured surface to make it smooth but don’t overwork it
- Roll or flatten to about half inch thick
- Use a round cutter or glass to cut make circles
- Place slightly touching in rows on a tray lined with parchment paper
- Form the crosses over the top of the buns
- Lightly brush with milk
- Bake at 450degrees for 10-12 minutes
- Take out the scones and brush with sugar glaze
What are your Easter traditions? Do you give Easter presents or an Easter basket? This is something we do with the girls and we enjoy hiding their presents in the backyard to find. Do you have any other family traditions? Do you eat ham for Sunday lunch? I would love to hear your traditions. Have a wonderful Easter.
(If you missed it, here is the post on Christmas traditions.)