British Easter Festivities, Traditions and Customs

Updated on April 8, 2020
Glenis Rix profile image

Glenis lives in England. She is now retired from her career in urban regeneration and enjoys spending time researching English traditions

A simple Easter Bonnet. Let your imagination run wild and then enter your creation in an Easter Bonnet parade.
A simple Easter Bonnet. Let your imagination run wild and then enter your creation in an Easter Bonnet parade. | Source

Fun and Creative Easter Activities With the Kids

  • Make an Easter bonnet. Craft stores, departmental stores and some supermarkets stock everything that is needed
  • Decorate an Easter tree. These are becoming increasingly popular and make a lovely decoration. Find some small decorative branches—willow is ideal—or buy a synthetic tree. The decorations can range from those homemade by the children to the beautiful glass eggs available in many stores
  • Make Easter cards to give to friends and family
  • Marble some eggs for a novel and nutritious breakfast.

My Grandchildren Making an Easter Tree

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Collecting twigsPainting twigs for an Easter TreeAn absorbing creative passtime
Collecting twigs
Collecting twigs | Source
Painting twigs for an Easter Tree
Painting twigs for an Easter Tree | Source
An absorbing creative passtime
An absorbing creative passtime | Source
An Easter Tree.
An Easter Tree. | Source

Easter Customs and Games That Involve Eggs

Nowadays even people who do not share Christian beliefs share in the fun and traditional games associated with Easter.

Egg Rolling

Egg Rolling is a centuries-old Easter tradition. Traditional egg rolling involves using marbled eggs, which are wrapped in onion skins and boiled to create marbled patterns (but nowadays some organisers deem it permissible to use eggs manufactured from hardier materials).

Traditionally, on Easter Sunday, the eggs were eaten for breakfast and surplus eggs, boiled for the purpose of rolling, were rolled down the local hill as a competition. Egg rolling still takes place throughout the UK and in other countries too, perhaps most famously, on the White House lawn in Washington, DC.

Egg and Spoon Race

Participants in the race balance an egg on a spoon and race to the finishing line. If a runner drops the egg s/he is disqualified.

The first account of a rabbit depositing eggs was written in the 16th century. It was recorded that children left their shoes out for the Easter Bunny to leave eggs and gifts.

— Countryfile Magazine

Easter Egg Hunt

A fun game in which decorated eggs or chocolate eggs are hidden, supposedly by the Easter Bunny, for children to hunt for and find.

Egg Dancing

Egg Dancing is an ancient custom, nowadays rarely seen, but still practised in parts of the UK over Easter. Brought to England by the Saxons in the 5th century, and first recorded in 1498, it involves townspeople, sometimes blindfolded, dancing around eggs laid on the ground, attempting to avoid stepping on them.

Egg Tapping

Egg Tapping, known as shackling, jarping or dumping, is popular all over the world today. Historically, dyed eggs were used. The game involves two people tapping their hard-boiled eggs together, each with the intention of cracking the other’s egg, whilst keeping their own intact.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Barack Obama egg rolling on the White House lawnA clutch of eggs found during an Easter Egg huntEgg tappingCornelis Saftleven [Public domain]
Barack Obama egg rolling on the White House lawn
Barack Obama egg rolling on the White House lawn | Source
A clutch of eggs found during an Easter Egg hunt
A clutch of eggs found during an Easter Egg hunt | Source
Egg tapping
Egg tapping | Source
Cornelis Saftleven [Public domain]
Cornelis Saftleven [Public domain]

Chocolate Easter Eggs

The first chocolate Easter eggs were made in France and Germany in the early 19th Century. Nowadays a wider and wider variety of boxed Easter eggs are on the shelves of supermarkets, and super-expensive ones are available from specialist chocolatiers. But it's fun to attempt to make your own and involve the family in decorating them.

I have found that silicone mounds produce a better and more consistent result than plastic. To achieve a good result, it's wise to use the best quality 80% cocoa solids chocolate that you can afford.

Easter Week Origins and Symbolism

Easter is a jolly time eagerly anticipated by children in many parts of the world. They look forward to hot cross buns on Good Friday and chocolate egg treats on Easter Sunday. Easter bunny rabbits and bizarre games that involve rolling eggs, hunting for them, or racing with them are all part of the holiday fun. This article looks at the origins of the Easter bunny, egg-based Easter games and tasty edible treats.

For many practising Christians, Easter is the most important time in the liturgical calendar. On Good Friday the murder of Jesus Christ is commemorated and on Easter Sunday, also known as Resurrection Sunday, his resurrection from death is celebrated. The cracking open of an Easter egg is said to symbolise the opening on the tomb in which the body of Christ was interred. An Easter egg is, therefore, a Christian symbol of rebirth.

The egg is also an historical symbol of fertility that stretches back into the distant past. The coming of the springtime, associated with new life, was celebrated by pagans long before the spread of Christianity, which conveniently incorporated a number of pagan festivals into the liturgical calendar.

Easter Bunny Postcard 1907
Easter Bunny Postcard 1907

The Origins of Easter Celebrations—It's All About Oestre

  • The word Easter is derived from Ŏastre, said to be the name of a Germanic pagan goddess, which translated into Old English is Ĕastre, and Ostara in Old High German.
  • The Venerable Bede, in his 8th-century work, The Reckoning of Time, stated that pagan Anglo Saxons had held feasts in honour of the goddess Ĕastre at a time that roughly equated with April.
  • Bede wrote that by his time the pagan feast had died out and had been replaced by the Christian Pascal Month, which celebrated the resurrection of Christ.
  • Some academics have speculated that Ŏastre was invented by Bede but there is no evidence to either prove or disprove what he wrote.
  • In Neo-paganism Ēostre is associated with the coming of spring and the dawn, and her festival is celebrated at the spring equinox.
  • Eggs have been associated with birth and fertility as far back as the ancient Egyptians. Perhaps because the spring season (and Ŏastre according to pagan beliefs) brings renewal, rebirth from the death of winter the egg has become one of the symbols, along with the hare, associated with her.
  • Many Christian festivals were timed to coincide with earlier pagan celebrations, presumably in the interests of good public relations, and some of the customs and practices associated with pre-Christian days were carried over into Christian celebrations. Hence we have the Easter Egg and the Easter Bunny.

Whether there was a goddess named Eostre, or not, and whatever connection the hare may have had with the ritual of Saxon or British worship, there are good grounds for believing that the sacredness of this animal reaches back into an age still more remote, where it is probably a very important part of the great Spring Festival of the prehistoric inhabitants of this island.

— Charles J. Billson, writing about the hare in folk custom and mythology


  • accessed 28th February 2018
  • accessed 26th February 2018
  • accessed 27th February 2018
  • accessed 28th February 2018
  • accessed 27th February 2018
  • accessed 6th March 2018
  • accessed 28th February 2018

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2018 GlenR


Submit a Comment
  • jo miller profile image

    Jo Miller 

    2 years ago from Tennessee

    Thanks, Glenis. I am planning an Easter dinner with festivities at my home this Easter and appreciate all of the useful information here. I especially like the information about making your own chocolate Easter eggs with the silicone mold.

  • aesta1 profile image

    Mary Norton 

    2 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    This is the best I have read about Easter and I like the games you included here. We can do some of these.

  • CaribTales profile image

    Dora Weithers 

    2 years ago from The Caribbean

    Thanks for the history and the pictures. Thanks especially for the games. They all make for a happy Easter!


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