A little book given to me several decades ago has recently re-surfaced in the garage.
Called ‘A Year of Festivals’, it describes hundred of ceremonies and celebrations enjoyed in towns and villages around the UK, each one having its origins in ancient history.
Nor does Easter escape!
At Tinsley Green, near Crawley, a marbles championship takes place on Good Friday. The game has been popular since about 1600, when two eligible young bachelors participated in a marbles competition, hoping to win the affection of a pretty young maiden from the locality.
Orange-rolling is a custom at Dunstable Downs in Bedfordshire, crowds of children gathering to remember the stone being rolled away from the tomb of Jesus.
A similar custom is followed in Preston. Hard-boiled, brightly-coloured eggs are pushed down the slopes of a nearby park, also as a reminder of the resurrection.
Easter bonnets, rabbits, bouquets of spring flowers all feature in our festivities, although, as is so often the case, the reason for the traditions has been forgotten over the centuries.
Eggs are prominent at this period of the year, usually chocolate, of course, a symbol of resurrection and new life since well before the Christian era. They were forbidden food during Lent, but on Easter Day were given as presents to friends and servants.
Returning to the Gospel accounts of the death of Jesus, we note that he was in the grave for three days before appearing to his disciples. The apostle Paul writes to the church in first-century Corinth with the reminder that his readers should not forget the good news that they had received from him and to which they had committed their lives.
‘I passed (this message) on to you as of first importance that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures’ (1 Corinthians 15, 1-8).
That Jesus is still alive today is a continuing source of wonder to those who know his day-to-day presence. And they anticipate the fulfilment of his promise to come back into the world ‘at the end of the age’.