Hot cross buns are in the shops again.
Easter must be on its way – or at least it’s what we used to believe but those buns seem to be on ‘special’ anytime from Christmas onwards. I’ve even seen them before Christmas.
The cross on the bun is there to symbolise the crucifixion of Jesus on Good Friday on the cross.
If you ask around, many people would have some idea why there is a cross and others might ask has it something to do with Christians. At least it is partly recognised.
The origins of hot cross buns may go back as far as the 12th century. According to the story, an Anglican monk baked the buns and marked them with a cross in honour of Good Friday. Over time they gained popularity and eventually became a symbol of Easter weekend.
So, what other Easter symbols are there?
The Easter Lily
The lily has always been highly regarded in the Church, as Jesus Himself referenced the flower, saying "Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these" (Luke chapter 12 verse 27).
Moreover, according to pious legend, “after Jesus' death and resurrection, some of these beautiful flowers were found growing in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus went to pray the night before His crucifixion.”
A poem of the early 1900s titled Easter Lilies delineates this custom:
Somewhere while the Easter lilies
Swing their perfumed censers white,
Softened rays of sunlight falling
In lines aslant, and warm, and bright,
Shall gild the altar, nave and chancel;
Rest with tender roseate ray
On the font, enwreathed with lilies
For baptismal rites today.
Another pilgrim on the journey
From the cradle to the tomb,
Shall receive a name and blessing
While the Easter lilies bloom.
Mrs. S.R. Allen (Esther Saville Allen)
This should be an easy one for followers of Jesus to know, it was, of course, palm branches which were laid on the road celebrating the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.
Early Christians used the palm branch to symbolize the victory of the faithful over enemies of the soul, as in the Palm Sunday festival.
Are palm branches common in Australian Christian Churches?
Perhaps not as well-known as they were but yes, I have seen them and in fact helped put them in the front of the church building on occasions.
The egg itself became a symbol of the Resurrection.
Just as Jesus rose from the tomb, the egg symbolized new life emerging from the eggshell.
In the Orthodox tradition, eggs are painted red to symbolize the blood Jesus shed on the cross.
Easter eggs, or resurrection eggs, do have their roots in pagan traditions during the spring equinox however, over time, they've come to be part of the Christian holiday celebrating eternal life in Jesus Christ through his resurrection.
The Easter Bunny
Legend has it, every year on Easter, a long-eared, cotton-tailed creature hops from house to house to deliver festive baskets full of treats, toys and delicious candy to children and even leaves colourful eggs hidden for them to find!
Among other popular Easter traditions like hot cross buns, the Easter Bunny has long been a well-known and popular symbol associated with the religious holiday — but have you ever wondered where the idea of the Easter Bunny came from and how exactly the cute, fluffy woodland creature became such a prevalent symbol of Easter?
The Bible makes no mention of an Easter rabbit or hare and its roots are a pagan tradition.
Where do we go from there?
Well, the rabbit brings eggs and eggs are a symbol of new life, fertility and rebirth, all traditions associated with Easter.
From a Christian perspective, Easter eggs represent Jesus' resurrection and his emergence from the tomb. Easter eggs are no longer associated with paganism, rather, they are a pleasant and symbolic part of our celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The Dogwood Tree
This was a new symbol I found when researching this article. Legend has it the cross on which Jesus was crucified was made of Dogwood.
The legend continues; God cursed the dogwood tree and said the tree would never grow large enough again to be used for a cross and allegedly it has been part of the forest under story ever since.
I have some doubt about the legend as dogwood is not native to Israel, according to the website Inger.wordpress.com, and therefore would be most unlikely to be growing there at the time of the crucifixion.
John Skinner served as an infantry soldier in Vietnam then the Tasmanian Police before taking up the position of CEO of the Australian Rough Riders Association (professional rodeo based in Warwick Qld). Before retirement to his small farm, he was a photo-journalist for 25 years. He is married with 3 children and 7 grandchildren.