28 Mar 2024

Easter Entertaining

Children love the Easter iconography of lambs, baby rabbits and chickens and enjoy making hand-crafted Easter cards and decorating their own eggs. And of course there is always the chocolate…

Cruising the laden aisles of supermarkets, Easter may seem like a very secular feast, but it is in fact a Christian holiday with ancient pagan origins. It was named after the Anglo-Saxon goddess, Eostre or Ostara, who symbolised fertility, dawn and light and was honoured at pagan festivals celebrating the arrival of spring, and these pagan traditions were eventually blended into Christian holidays. The date of Easter Sunday changes each year because it is linked to the lunar calendar. Easter falls on the first Sunday after the full moon that takes on or after 21 March, the start of spring.

This year the annual Easter holiday falls early, on the last weekend of March, when the clocks also go forward, ushering in six months of British summer time. An early Easter can provide challenges to even the most optimistic amongst us: the weather is fickle, and sometimes downright unpleasant, at this time of year. Leaden grey skies, blustery winds and heavy rain can make spring feel a very distant prospect, and bedraggled and battered spring flowers and soggy blossom can present a somewhat discouraging prospect.

But we should not despair: the seasons really are turning and the days are getting longer. The important thing is to make Easter plans that will accommodate changeable weather and are flexible enough to ensure that everybody is able to have a good time. 

Bring Spring Inside

Even if the weather outside is dreary you can still make your house look festive and spring-like. Florists offer a profusion of inexpensive spring flowers at this time of year and potted hyacinths, tulips and other spring bulbs will thrive indoors.

Decorate your lunch table with sprigs of blossom, catkins and spring greenery and – if you’re having friends to stay – brighten up the guest room with a posy of spring anemones or a bunch of daffodils or narcissi.

Lay on an Easter Lunch

Whether you’re catering for your family, or hosting a large group of friends, make a special Easter lunch. The tradition of eating lamb at Easter is bound up in Jewish and Christian beliefs and symbolism and is a widespread convention. A roast leg of lamb with all the trimmings is certainly a traditional Easter meal but you will need to think carefully about your guests and their various dietary requirements. As well as vegetarians and vegans, many people opt not to eat red meat, so you might have to contemplate an Easter spread that accommodates a wider range of options. It’s always a good idea to check this out beforehand so you can be prepared for every requirement.

Easter guests should not turn up empty-handed: now is the time to bring gifts of spring flowers or a beautiful potted plant, which will reflect the fact that you’re celebrating a new season and new beginnings.

Indulge in Chocolate

The egg is a symbol of life and rebirth and the tradition of giving eggs at Easter time can be traced back to Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, Romans and Gauls. In the medieval period eating eggs was forbidden during the 40-day fasting period of Lent, so Easter Sunday – the day on which the fast ended – was greeted with feasting and merriment, and eggs were very popular amongst poorer people who couldn’t afford meat.

Chocolate Easter eggs date back to Victorian times; they were launched by Fry and Cadbury in the 1870s and were embraced with enthusiasm. Today, Easter sales make up for 10 per cent of all the chocolate consumption in the UK.

While most of us have not been undergoing a rigorous Lenten fast, the annual orgy of chocolate-eating indulgence is very much a sign that the long, dreary days of winter are over. Easter hosts should certainly ensure that they are well supplied with chocolate treats – eggs for the children and more sophisticated choices and chocolate-based desserts for the adults.

Bear in mind, however, that not everybody has a sweet tooth and that some people will be trying hard to resist the chocolate temptations because they are watching their weight or have a health issue. It is therefore important to ensure that you have alternatives: a delicious selection of cheese and biscuits and a well-stocked fruit bowl will ensure that chocolate refuseniks don’t feel left out.

Make Contingency Plans

An Easter egg hunt – preferably outside in the garden – is an excellent way of keeping children entertained and it will ensure that they are given plenty of opportunity to run around and burn off some of the energy and excitement that often accompanies over-indulgence in chocolate. All you will need is plenty of small, wrapped Easter eggs and a basket or bowl for each child so they can stow their booty. Older children will love responding to written clues, especially rhyming couplets or terrible puns. You can write them on coloured cards and tape them to trees or walls.

If Easter Sunday is wet, be prepared to bring the whole hunt indoors. Eggs can be concealed around the house and children will still enjoy the treasure hunt.

But beware: if you’ve got a full house, and especially if you’re entertaining older relatives, you might find your guests are somewhat frazzled by a stampede of hyped-up, hysterical children, who are high on chocolate.  It is always a good idea to make one room out of bounds to egg-hunters and excited children and to create an oasis of civilised calm.

Get Out and About

At this time of year weather forecasts are a confusing jumble of sunshine and showers. So make sure you’re ready to take advantage of sunny interludes and get out and about with guests and children. A countryside walk and a visit to a pub or a trip to your local park will blow away the Easter cobwebs and burn off the excess calories.

Just remember, if you are an Easter host, that you must not act like a bossy sergeant major, dictating plans and marshalling your guests with scant regard for their wishes. You might feel that a bracing walk is an excellent idea, but not everybody will share your enthusiasm, so canvas opinions and make tentative suggestions. Always offer alternative options for guests: you could float the idea of a walk, but also suggest a visit to a local garden or stately home. You’ll soon be able to detect your guests’ true preferences and act accordingly.

Finally, remember that Easter is also a religious festival, and it is therefore important, whatever your beliefs, to accommodate other people’s wishes. This might mean making arrangements for guests to attend a church service on Sunday, or explaining to your guests that you will be going to church and, if they wish, they are welcome to accompany you. Guests should never be pressurised to conform to your own choices.


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