It’s not surprising that many American holidays are steeped in Scotch/Irish/English traditions. Since today is Good Friday and this is Easter weekend, I thought it might be fun to compare a few of their traditions to ours.
Many of our spiritual observances are similar: Lent, Ash Wednesday, Easter Sunrise Service, etc. Some of our non-religious customs also find their roots in the Isles of Britain.
Easter can be traced back to a Saxon goddess of fertility (Eastre). Her festival predates Christianity. Later combined with the Christian faith, the holiday retained its moveable date. Easter falls on the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox (the first day of spring). For more in depth information on the Easter holiday, see our earlier post here.
In Scotland, Faster’s E’en fell on the last Tuesday before Lent. It usually included a carnival and feast, when they used up all their meat, butter, and fat. Sound familiar? Lent included fish Fridays, too. By the way, Faster’s E’en was also called Bannock Night, Beef Brose, and Shriften E’en. What a great idea––throw a party and get rid of all the foods that would tempt you to break your fast or diet.
On Good Friday (good meaning pious or holy), farmers took a break. No plowing, no sowing of seed. Everyone loves a long weekend!
In ages past, Scots lit huge fires to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. This was another custom you could trace back to Saxon times and worship of the goddess. In more modern times, church attendance and a big dinner on Easter Sunday is paramount. The dinner usually includes lamb. You’ll also find Hot Cross Buns available throughout the United Kingdom this time of year.
On Monday morning, following Easter, children rolled painted hard-boiled eggs down a hill. Maybe you thought that particular game originated at the White House. How did this custom get its start? The eggs rolling downhill imitated the path of the sun. Later, it came to signify the rolling away of the stone that sealed Jesus’ tomb.
I’ve enjoyed this month’s excursion to the Emerald Isle and its beautiful, rugged neighbor Scotland. It is important to remember those ties which bind us together; the customs and beliefs we share. Many of us can trace our roots to this relatively small group of islands. Amazing how many times God uses the small and seemingly unimportant people to conquer nations and change history.
Prompt: Mama kept one eye on the door as she finished the preparations for Easter Dinner. I knew what she was thinking, and whispered a prayer lest her hopes be dashed yet again. Everyone was seated round the table. Pa began to slice the leg of lamb when suddenly…