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10 things you might not know about the origins of Easter

The AHRC-funded research project Easter E.g. explores some of the misconceptions of Easter as well as the animals that have come to be associated with the festival. The research team based across the University of Exeter, the University of Oxford, the University of Leicester and the University of Nottingham, comprises a wide range of experts across disciplines from anthropology, zoo archaeology, to art history and religious studies.

Find out more on our image gallery below.

Principal investigator, Naomi Sykes at the University of Exeter said: “We hope our research encourages people to discover things they may not know about the origins of our Easter customs. From giving eggs as gifts to pictures of chicks and bunnies, our Easter symbols can reveal fascinating insights about animal populations in the UK and the evolution of human traditions.”

For more information on the project visit: www.easter-origins.org.

  • Image of The Easter bunny is a relatively recent phenomenon - other animals, such as the hare, fox and stork, featured in historic Easter traditions.
    The Easter bunny is a relatively recent phenomenon - other animals, such as the hare, fox and stork, featured in historic Easter traditions. about The Easter bunny is a relatively recent phenomenon - other animals, such as the hare, fox and stork, featured in historic Easter traditions.
  • Image of The English word 'Easter' was first documented in the eighth century AD by the Venerable Bede, whose book on the 'Reckoning of Time' refers to spring celebrations in honour of the pagan goddess Ēostre, from whom Easter takes its English and German name.
    The English word 'Easter' was first documented in the eighth century AD by the Venerable Bede, whose book on the 'Reckoning of Time' refers to spring celebrations in honour of the pagan goddess Ēostre, from whom Easter takes its English and German name. about The English word 'Easter' was first documented in the eighth century AD by the Venerable Bede, whose book on the 'Reckoning of Time' refers to spring celebrations in honour of the pagan goddess Ēostre, from whom Easter takes its English and German name.
  • Image of It's a popular myth that the hare is the sacred animal of the goddess Ēostre. This association was simply suggested by Jacob Grimm (one of the Grimm brothers - who told fairy tales!) and has come to be viewed as fact.
    It's a popular myth that the hare is the sacred animal of the goddess Ēostre. This association was simply suggested by Jacob Grimm (one of the Grimm brothers - who told fairy tales!) and has come to be viewed as fact. about It's a popular myth that the hare is the sacred animal of the goddess Ēostre. This association was simply suggested by Jacob Grimm (one of the Grimm brothers - who told fairy tales!) and has come to be viewed as fact.
  • Image of The concept of the Easter bunny was introduced to Britain during the Victorian period (when we also received most of our Christmas traditions) but because populations of hare were low at this time, the tradition became associated with rabbits.
    The concept of the Easter bunny was introduced to Britain during the Victorian period (when we also received most of our Christmas traditions) but because populations of hare were low at this time, the tradition became associated with rabbits. about The concept of the Easter bunny was introduced to Britain during the Victorian period (when we also received most of our Christmas traditions) but because populations of hare were low at this time, the tradition became associated with rabbits.
  • Image of The Easter bunny is first mentioned as bringing Easter eggs in the seventeenth century by the German physician Georg Franck von Franckenau.
    The Easter bunny is first mentioned as bringing Easter eggs in the seventeenth century by the German physician Georg Franck von Franckenau. about The Easter bunny is first mentioned as bringing Easter eggs in the seventeenth century by the German physician Georg Franck von Franckenau.
  • Image of None of the animals we associate with Easter are native - chickens came from Southeast Asia, arriving into Europe during the Iron Age; brown hares arrived into Britain about the same time (most probably from Germany), and rabbits were brought from Iberia.
    None of the animals we associate with Easter are native - chickens came from Southeast Asia, arriving into Europe during the Iron Age; brown hares arrived into Britain about the same time (most probably from Germany), and rabbits were brought from Iberia. about None of the animals we associate with Easter are native - chickens came from Southeast Asia, arriving into Europe during the Iron Age; brown hares arrived into Britain about the same time (most probably from Germany), and rabbits were brought from Iberia.
  • Image of The earliest Easter eggs appear to stem from Mesopotamia - modern Syria and Iraq - in the third century.
    The earliest Easter eggs appear to stem from Mesopotamia - modern Syria and Iraq - in the third century. about The earliest Easter eggs appear to stem from Mesopotamia - modern Syria and Iraq - in the third century.
  • Image of One of the earliest instances of an Easter egg being given as a gift in England was when Henry VII received an egg in a silver case from the Pope in the early sixteenth century.
    One of the earliest instances of an Easter egg being given as a gift in England was when Henry VII received an egg in a silver case from the Pope in the early sixteenth century. about One of the earliest instances of an Easter egg being given as a gift in England was when Henry VII received an egg in a silver case from the Pope in the early sixteenth century.
  • Image of Chocolate was introduced to Britain in the 1650s via Spain, following its discovery in South America by Christopher Columbus in the early 1500s.
    Chocolate was introduced to Britain in the 1650s via Spain, following its discovery in South America by Christopher Columbus in the early 1500s. about Chocolate was introduced to Britain in the 1650s via Spain, following its discovery in South America by Christopher Columbus in the early 1500s.
  • Image of Christianity was initially brought to Britain by the Romans in the 1st century AD and then again in 597 AD.
    Christianity was initially brought to Britain by the Romans in the 1st century AD and then again in 597 AD. about Christianity was initially brought to Britain by the Romans in the 1st century AD and then again in 597 AD.