With Easter only a week away, some of you may already be preparing for it by fasting during Lent.
It is the time of year that Christians all around the world remember the death and resurrection of Jesus but there are some strange and unusual traditions that have nothing to do with Jesus, which are also associated with the day. So where do these traditions come from?
Easter eggs have medieval origins
Christians may not have been the ones to come up with the Easter egg; it is believed they originated from Medieval Europe and were a symbol of fertility and rebirth in many cultures around the world.
Speaking of eggs, the world’s largest easter egg weighs 2267kgs and is located in Vegreville, Alberta, Canada,
Named the “Vegreville Pysanka”, it stands at 31 feet tall, is made up of 3500 pieces of aluminum and took 12,000 hours to complete.
In 2007, an easter egg sold for £9 million ($16.6 million) at Christie’s, an art and luxury business in London; it was created by Russian jeweller Peter Carl Fabergé.
Inside the egg sits a multi-coloured cockerel, which pops out every hour to flap his wings and nod his head three times.
The holiday was named after an Anglo-Saxon goddess
Scholars believe Easter was named after a festival celebrating Eostre, who was depicted as a fertility goddess and a goddess of dawn and light.
She was usually honoured at Pagan festivals celebrating the arrival of spring and was associated with the symbols of the hare and the egg.
Eggs are dyed to represent the blood of Jesus
The tradition of dyeing Easter eggs could date as far back as ancient Mesopotamia, when eggs were dyed red to represent the blood that Jesus shed on the cross.
Over the years, the church continued the tradition of decorating eggs, with decorations becoming more elaborate over time and the eggs eventually given out as gifts.
Painting of eggs came from a Ukrainian tradition
While the church was dyeing eggs, another tradition began to develop in Ukraine to paint eggs. For the Ukrainians, it was their way of calling out to the gods and goddesses of health and fertility.
The eggs, called pysankay, are made using wax and dyes, and Ukrainian immigrants eventually brought this tradition to the United States.
The world’s largest easter egg weighs more than 2200kg and is in Canada.
The Easter Bunny came from Germany
It is believed the Easter Bunny came to America through German immigrants, who introduced it to the state of Pennsylvania in the 1700s.
The Germans told them about their legend of the hare Osterhase that laid colourful eggs as gifts to children as a reward for good behaviour; the children would anticipate its arrival by making nests for it to lay its eggs and would also sometimes set out carrots for it.
It’s illegal to dance in Germany on Good Friday
There’s no dancing on the street in Germany on Good Friday because it is illegal to do so in 12 out of 16 states in the country; even the clubbing capital Berlin becomes unusually dance-free.
It is believed this ban, which has been around for decades, was put in place out of respect for Christians to mourn the death of Jesus.
Pancake Day was the time to use up eggs before Lent
Shrove Tuesday takes place before the start of Lent and was a day for Christians to confess their sins. The name of the day comes from the word “shriven”, which means to be pardoned from sin.
On the day, a bell would be rung to call people to confession and this eventually became known as the “Pancake Bell” because it was also a reminder for people to use up all perishable items, such as eggs, sugar and milk, before Lent the next day.
Pancake Day always takes place 47 days before Easter Sunday.
More than 500 million Creme Eggs are produced yearly.
Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent
The 40-day period of fasting begins on a Wednesday and represents Jesus’ time of temptation in the wilderness, where he spent 40 days and nights fasting.
The name of the day comes from early traditions in the Church in Rome, when ashes were placed on the foreheads of worshippers in a public confession of their sins.
Pretzels used to be associated with Easter
The origin of the pretzel could have its roots in Easter because there is a legend that they were invented by an Italian monk in 610AD.
It is believed they were given out to young children as a reward for learning their prayers, and the folded strips of bread dough are believed to resemble arms crossed during prayer.
More than 1.5 million Cadbury Creme eggs are produced every day
Arguably the most famous and beloved chocolate egg, the Cadbury Creme egg is produced in record numbers every day.
The Birmingham factory produces 1.5 million every day, with more than 500 million Creme Eggs produced yearly.