The origins of some traditional Easter foods
by Rebecca Parkinson
Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
To look at the origins of some traditional Easter foods.
Preparation and materials
- If possible, have some examples of hot cross buns, simnel cake and Easter eggs, but, if not, the means to show images of them in the assembly, such as the following (check copyright):
– hot cross buns at: https://tinyurl.com/mr98vyd
– simnel cake at: https://tinyurl.com/l7elj8l
– Easter eggs at: https://tinyurl.com/lg6pruz
- Show the children the food or images of food and ask them to name them. Explain that these three types of foods are traditionally eaten at Easter time and in some way relate to the Easter story.
- Show the children the simnel cake and ask if they have any idea how this relates to the Easter story in the Bible.
Ask them to count the number of marzipan balls on the top of the cake. Can they think why there would be 11? If they don’t know, explain that, traditionally, the balls represent Jesus’ disciples. The Bible talks about Jesus having 12 disciples, but one of them– Judas Iscariot – betrayed Jesus and handed him over to the soldiers, so the cake shows that he was no longer one of the disciples.
- Show the children the hot cross buns and ask them what these could represent.
There are various traditions regarding what the buns represent, but the main one is simply that the cross reminds us of Jesus dying on the cross. In the twelfth century, a monk called Father Rocliffe began to make small, spiced cakes, on to which he stamped the shape of a cross. He gave the buns out on Good Friday as Easter presents to the poor people who lived nearby. The idea was so popular that he repeated this each year and gradually other monasteries began to do the same. Over the years, this tradition became more and more popular.
- Show the children the Easter eggs and ask them what they represent.
One traditional story explaining the meaning of Easter eggs is that they represent the stone that was put across the doorway to Jesus’ tomb and found to have been rolled away on Easter morning because Jesus had risen from the dead. The idea is that breaking the egg symbolizes the tomb being ‘cracked’ open and Jesus coming back to life.
Eggs are also a symbol of hope and new life. That is because chicks hatch from eggs and, at Easter, this reminds us that Jesus rose from the dead.
- Over the years, ‘Easter food’ has become more and more commercialized, with many people simply buying them because it is traditional to do so rather than thinking about or even knowing their significance. In 2013, 90 million Easter eggs were sold in the UK! Christians believe that it is important for people to be reminded of the true meaning of Easter and talking about these foods is a good way to do this.
Time for reflection
Ask the children to think about the simnel cake and its meaning. Mention that Judas was not a good friend to Jesus. Ask, ‘Are you a good friend? Are there ways in which you could be a better friend today and during the Easter season?’
Ask the children to think about the hot cross buns and to remember that Jesus gave his life on the cross.
Ask them, too, to think about the Easter eggs and thank God that Jesus came back to life and gives hope to the world.
Thank you for the Easter story and the hope that it brings.
Thank you for the life of Jesus and the example he is to us all.
Thank you that his life, death and resurrection changed the world.
Seasonal song of your choice