Easter > Symbols
For many Christians, the forty-day fasting period known as Lent, ends in a feast of seasonal and symbolic foods. In the late 17th century, on the fourth Sunday of Lent, girls working in service would take home to their mothers a rich fruit cake enriched with marzipan, known as Simnel cake. This might have been the only day of the year where the whole family got together. The cake was decorated with eleven marzipan balls representing the apostles - the twelfth one (Judas) was omitted because he betrayed Christ.
Throughout history, eggs have been associated with Easter. In ancient times the egg was a symbol of fertility and new beginnings and it was adopted by Christians to represent the resurrection of Christ. The first Easter Eggs in Europe were painted and decorated duck, goose or hen eggs and this tradition remains in some parts of the world today. Over time, the decoration has become more and more elaborate, with detailed images, colourful patterns and gold and silver leaf details being incorporated. The first chocolate Easter eggs appeared in Germany and France in the early 19th century, and their popularity spread quickly to the rest of Europe and beyond. The originally solid chocolate eggs have become the Easter gift of choice across the world.
The most famous Easter eggs of all must be the enamelled and jewel-encrusted gold eggs that French jeweller Carl Faberge was commissioned to make for the Russian imperial family. The first was made in 1885 as a gift from Tsar Alexander III to the empress Maria Fedorovna. Over the years a total of fifty-four eggs were made, all of them with a unique design and each containing a surprise. The collection was dispersed around the world after the Russian Revolution and only forty-two of these fabulous eggs survive. A Faberge egg created in 1902 for the Rothschild banking family was sold in London in 2007 for GBP 8.9 million.
Hot Cross Buns
The Greeks and Egyptians ate small cakes or buns in honour of the respective goddesses that they worshipped, and buns marked with a cross were eaten by the Saxons to honour their goddess Eostre. Hot Cross Buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday, with the cross standing as a symbol of crucifixion.
In Australia a chocolate version of the bun has become popular, with cocoa and chocolate chips being added to the dough, and in the Czech Republic "mazanec" is a similar bun and often has a cross on top.