Reading Comprehension. Easter, History & Traditions

This reading comprehension exercise about Easter is part of an Intermediate English Course. The reading comprehension questions for this exercise are here.

What is Easter?

Easter is a Christian holiday that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus. It is one of the most important holidays in the Christian calendar, although nowadays many people, both Christian and secular, observe Easter with a variety of traditions and celebrations. In this article, we will look at the history and significance of Easter, as well as explore some of the common traditions and celebrations that take place in English-speaking countries.

What are the origins of Easter?

The origins of Easter can be traced back to the ancient Hebrews, who celebrated the festival of Passover to commemorate the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. Early Christians saw the resurrection of Jesus as a fulfillment of the Passover story and adopted the celebration. The word “Easter” comes from the Old English name “Eostre,” a pagan goddess of fertility and spring.

How and when Easter is celebrated.

Easter is typically celebrated on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox (the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere). This means that the date of Easter can vary from year to year, but it usually falls between March 22 and April 25.

The Egg hunt and Egg Rolling

One of the best-known traditions associated with Easter is the Easter egg hunt. Both children and adults take part in this activity. The children look for brightly-coloured eggs that have been hidden in various locations, usually around a house or garden, by the adults.

In the United Kingdom, some people take part in egg rolling competitions. Participants have to roll an egg down a hill without breaking it. The competitor who rolls their egg the furthest is the winner.

Eggs as part of Easter celebrations have pagan origins and symbolise new life and fertility. Eggs were given as gifts during the spring equinox, representing the start of the season of rebirth and new growth. When Christianity spread throughout Europe, many of these pagan traditions were incorporated into Christian holidays. The egg also came to stand for the tomb from which Jesus emerged after his resurrection, further emphasising the connection between eggs and new life.

The Easter Bunny

Another common tradition is giving Easter baskets filled with sweets, toys or other small gifts. This tradition is often associated with the Easter Bunny. The Easter Bunny is a mythical creature who delivers the baskets to children on the morning of Easter Sunday. Sometimes, the Easter Bunny is represented as a chocolate figurine. In the past the Easter Bunny was represented as a live bunny that was given as a gift. Nowadays, however, many people recommend against giving animals as gifts, as pets are a big responsibility.

In the United States, the Easter Bunny is an important character in Easter celebrations, even making an appearance at the White House as part of the egg hunt. However, both the Easter Bunny and the egg hunt were traditions brought to the USA by German immigrants in the 1700s. In the original German legend, a poor woman hid decorated eggs for her children to find. When the children had found all of the eggs, they saw a large hare (a creature similar to a rabbit) hopping away and thought that it was the hare that had hidden the eggs. This hare, known as the Osterhase, became known as the Easter Bunny and is now central to Easter celebrations all over the world.

Carpets of Petals

In Spain, a popular Easter tradition is to decorate the streets with intricate patterns made of flower petals. This tradition, which dates back centuries, sees whole communities come together to design and create beautiful carpets of petals. Some of the designs are religious, some are geometric or abstract. The decorated streets are often paths for religious processions, and the designs fade away as they are walked over. These processions are often very solemn, with groups carrying heavy religious icons such as Jesus or Mary as a symbol of their dedication to their religion.

Religious Easter celebrations

In addition to these traditions, Easter is also marked by a variety of religious ceremonies and observances. These can include church services, prayer gatherings, and the reading of the Easter story from the Bible. Many people also observe the 40 days of Lent leading up to Easter. Some give up certain activities or foods that they enjoy for Lent. For example, Catholics might avoid eating meat on certain days. Others might give up chocolate or videogames during lent.

In terms of celebrations, Easter is often marked by large family gatherings and feasts. Roast lamb, ham, and other traditional dishes are common, and many people also bake special Easter breads and desserts. Many like to get together to have parties where they give out chocolate eggs to the younger members of the family. In some parts of the world, Easter is also celebrated with parades, carnivals, and other festive events.

In English-speaking countries, Easter is a widely-celebrated holiday that is enjoyed by people of all ages. It is a time for reflection, celebration, and coming together with loved ones. Although it may have pagan and Christian origins, Easter is a tradition that people all around the world look forward to and enjoy in many ways.

Reading Comprehension Questions

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