Easter Facts

Here are some facts about Easter.

  • Easter is an important Christian holiday, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The holiday can fall anywhere between the middle of March and the end of April, depending on the calendar. (The date of Easter is calculated using a lunar calendar).

  • Easter actually lasts for 40 days, the time representing the 40 days which Jesus spent wandering in the wilderness. The most important dates are Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
  • The celebration was originally called Pascha, from the Hebrew word Passover, and that name is still used in some countries. The name Easter probably comes from the name for an Anglo-Saxon goddess.
  • The tradition of the Easter Bunny bringing gifts was first mentioned in 17th century Germany. Over 90 million chocolate bunnies are manufactured every Easter.
  • The Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans all gave eggs as gifts. In many cultures, the egg has been seen a symbol of rebirth, and painting eggs is officially known as Pysanka.
  • The first Easter celebrations were in the 2nd century AD and were connected to the Jewish Passover celebration. The holiday has become commercialized, with non-Christian themes being added to it.
  • Chocolate eggs originated in Europe during the 19th century. In the United States alone, over 600 million eggs are sold during March and April, making Easter the second most popular holiday to eat chocolate.
  • Hot cross buns, made with raisins, are one of the most popular Easter treats. They were originally baked by monks and given to the poor people during Lent.
  • Easter eggs have been rolled on the White House lawn since 1878. In 1997, almost 10,000 children hunted for 500,000 hidden eggs in a huge egg hunt in Florida.
  • In Germany, people dance around Easter eggs and try to not break them, while in some European countries, people hit each other’s eggs with their own to try to smash them.

Valentine’s Day: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Valentine’s Day.

  • Valentine’s Day is celebrated every year on 14th February in lots of countries around the world.
  • Valentine’s Day is sometimes referred to as the Feast of Saint Valentine or Saint Valentine’s Day.

  • It began as a celebration of two Christian saints, Saint Valentine of Rome and Saint Valentine of Terni.
  • Legend has it that Saint Valentine of Rome was imprisoned by the Romans for aiding persecuted Christians. He was questioned by the Roman Emperor Claudius II and he was executed for attempting to convert the Emperor to Christianity.
  • Other stories of Saint Valentine of Rome tell of him performing a miracle, when he was in prison, to heal the daughter of Asterius, his jailer. Before his execution, Valentine wrote to Julia, the jailer’s daughter, signing it ‘Your Valentine’, thereby writing the first Valentine’s card.
  • Saint Valentine is said to have worn an amethyst ring with bearing an image of Cupid.
  •  In the Middle Ages, Valentine’s Day became associated with romance and courtly love.
  • The earliest Valentine’s message to have survived is a short poem written by the Duke of Orleans to his wife in the 15th century. When it was written, the Duke of Orleans was in the Tower of London, a prisoner of the English following his role in the Battle of Agincourt.
  • In 1477 Margery Brewes wrote a Valentine’s message to her husband-to-be, John Paston. The message has survived and it is part of the Paston Letters.
  • Valentine’s Day is spoken about in Hamlet by William Shakespeare.

Vintage Valentine's Day card

  • In 18th century England, people expressed their love on Valentine’s Day by presenting their loved one with flowers, sweets, chocolates and Valentine’s Day greeting cards (Valentines). Most Valentines were sent anonymously.
  • By the 19th century, Valentines were produced in factories.
  • The first mass-produced Valentines in the United States were manufactured by Esther Howland in the late 1840s.
  • In the UK, more than £1 billion is spent on Valentine’s Day and more than 20 million cards are sent.
  • In the US, more than 150 million cards are sent.
  • Symbols of Valentine’s day include heart-shapes, images of Cupid and doves.

Halloween Facts

Here are some facts about Halloween.

  • Halloween is celebrated on October 31st and is a shortening of All Hallows’ Eve. It has its origins in Celtic culture when the day celebrated the end of the harvest.
  • In the US, it is the most commercially successful holiday after Christmas. European immigrants introduced many Halloween traditions to America.

  • Children are 50 percent more likely to be killed or injured by traffic on October 31st, than on any other night.
  • The fear of Halloween is known as samhainophobia.
  • Halloween is also celebrated around the world. It is popular in the UK, China, Japan, Brazil, Greece and Romania.
  • Halloween is especially popular in Ireland, when children dress as creatures from the underworld. Trick or treating is also popular and October 31st is the busiest night of the year for the police.
  • The colours orange and black are often associated with Halloween. Orange originally signified the autumn harvest, while black was associated with darkness and the line between life and death.
  • Trick or treating began in Ireland, when children would visit homes and tell rhymes for rewards.
  • In 8th century Britain, poor people went begging from door to door on Halloween.
  • The 1978 film Halloween is considered to be a horror classic. It was made on a tight budget, with the actors wearing their own clothes and helping with odd jobs.
  • The ancient Celts first wore masks and costumes on October 31st, so they would not be recognized by wandering ghosts. Bonfires were lit to ensure the sun would return next year.
  • Jack O’Lanterns were originally made from turnips, but are now made out of pumpkins. They are supposedly named after a mean man named Jack who was condemned to wander the earth waving his lantern to mislead people.
  • Nearly 19,000 tons of pumpkins are sold in the US and UK every Halloween season.

St Patrick’s Day Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Saint Patrick’s Day, an annual celebration of St Patrick held on the 17th March.

  • St Patrick’s Day is a religious festival observed by the Church of Ireland, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Lutheran Church and the Catholic Church.

  • In the 17th century, St Patrick’s Day was turned into an official feast day.
  • Over time, St Patrick’s Day has also become a celebration of Ireland and Irish culture.
  • People celebrate St Patrick’s Day by attending church services, joining public parades, wearing green, eating and drinking alcohol (especially Guinness and Irish whiskey).
  • It’s a public holiday in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Newfoundland. It is celebrated by those of Irish descent, particularly in Great Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
  • The shamrock, one of the symbols associated with St Patrick, is often attached to clothes during Saint Patrick’s Day.

Click here to find out more about St Patrick.

St Patricks Day

Burns Night: Facts About A Burns Supper

In Scotland (and now all over the world) admirers of Robert Burns celebrate his life and poems by having a Burns Supper on Burns Night. Burns Night is held on 25th January (the birthday of Robert Burns) and this is sometimes referred to as Robert Burns Day.

Burns Supper

A Burns Supper, a meal to celebrate Robert Burns, can be formal occasions or more relaxed gatherings.

A traditionl formal Burns Supper – like those held by Burns Clubs and Freemason groups – follow a set pattern and order. Here is an example of a formal Burns Supper:

  1. Guests arrive.
  2. The host gives a welcome speech, the guests are seated and grace is performed.
  3. A starter of soup is served.
  4. The Piping of the Haggis takes place – the main course of haggis is brought to the table accompanied by a piper playing bagpipes.
  5. The host (or another guest) recites Robert Burns’ Address to a Haggis,and the haggis is cut.
  6. The haggis is served with tatties (mashed potatoes) and neeps (mashed turnip).
  7. A dessert course and cheese course may follow the haggis. The desserts are usually traditional Scottish recipes, such as: Tipsy Laird (trifle).
  8. One of the guests will give a short speech called the Immortal Memory. This speech will focus on aspects of life of Robert Burns or his work. A toast to Robert Burns is then drunk.
  9. The host will say a few words of thanks, before the Toast to the Lassies takes place. This is a speech given by a male guest to the women. It was traditionally a speech of thanks for the women who had prepared the food, but in recent times the focus of the speech will be more broad. It is meant to be funny but should not cause offence.
  10. A female guest will have a chance to repsond to the last speech with her Reply to the Toast of the Lassies.
  11. Once the speeches have been completed, songs by Burns will often be sung and his poems recited.
  12. The closing tradition is for the host to gather the guests and invite them to join hands and sing Auld Lang Syne.

Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day): Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Shrove Tuesday (often called Pancake Day in the United Kingdom).

  • Shrove Tuesday is a Christian festival to mark the start of Lent. Lent is a period of about six weeks when Christians are meant to practise abstinence – by giving up luxuries or uneccessary things. Lent ends on Maundy Thursday, the day before Good Friday.

  • Traditionally, Shrove Tuesday is associated with pancakes being eaten. This was the last chance to eat rich foods before Lent, and an opportunity to use up all of the luxury foods (such as fat, butter and eggs – which British pancakes are made of) which might go off during Lent.
  • Although it always falls on a Tuesday, the exact date of Pancake Day changes from year to year. It is always 47 days before Easter Sunday, and this means that it is possible for Pancake Day to be on any day between 3rd February or 9th March.

Shrove Tuesday is celebrated by Christians all over the world, but the festival is known by different names.

  • In the UK, Ireland and Australia the celebration is most often called Pancake Day, Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Tuesday.
  • In France and the French-speaking and Catholic communities of the United States, they refer to Shrove Tuesday as Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday)
  • In Iceland people celebrate Sprengidagur (The Day of Bursting)
  • In Greece it’s called Apocreas (from the meat) as many Greek Christians give up meat during Lent.