So many traditions, so many myths. Well, before the season of dodgy explanations as to Easter's origins and meanings really comes along, let us help you with some Real Facts.
Easter gets its name from Easter Island. The little-eared inhabitants celebrated at this time of year because, as the days grew colder, their big-eared enemies did not like to go out so much, suffering as they did from frostbitten lobes. The Christian Church took over the idea of an apparently superior foe being overcome, when they wrote the Bible.
In Ancient England, Maundy Money was originally "Mandy Money". The Lord of the King's Exchequer always received the title "Mandy" (it was some kind of Peterhouse tradition) and was entitled to all taxes paid on this day. Because in those days Good Friday was always on Old Lady Day (April 6), Mandy Thursday was the day with the biggest tax-take of the year. In order to break the power of Mandy, King Gregory invented a new calendar.
In Dunstable, oranges are traditionally rolled down Pascombe Pit on Good Friday. This developed from the earlier ritual, when suspected witches were rolled down. If they turned into hot cross buns, they were innocent.
Low Sunday (the first after Easter) is so-called because that's when the vicars go on holiday. In Stuart times the (normally Laudian) vicars would need to find substitutes for this Sunday. Since the only people available would be Puritans, who never took days off, the liturgy would be "lower" than normal. Sometimes the vicar would return to discover all his best chasubles had been turned into tablecloths, or all the images defaced. Puritans have always been unpleasant, which is why it was so kind of America to take them off our hands.
Oestrogen is named after the Easterhouse area of Glasgow, whose Catholic inhabitants used Easter eggs as a natural contraception method. They just decided eating chocolate was more fun than sex.
Chocolate oranges are banned in North Korea in case the inhabitants confuse them with the country's leader.
Estragon in Waiting for Godot is so named because Beckett envisaged him being vaguely oval-shaped.
Recent archaeological theories speculate that the trilithons at Stonehenge were the hoops in a giant Easter croquet game, designed to be played with the more egg-shaped stones at Avebury. Deforestation, due to cutting down enough trees to make the giant mallets required, caused runaway global warming. This killed the giants before a ball was struck.
Simnel Cake is named after Lambert Simnel, illegitimate son of Henry V, who claimed the throne of England under the name Perkin Warbeck*. He was allergic to almonds, and Henry VII had him force-fed the cake to bring him out in hives. Merry England, eh?
Under a law brought in by the last Labour Government, Easter egg hunts are illegal if more than two hounds are used.
The decision as to which day is Easter Sunday each year was made at the Council of Nicaea. They agreed the date for every year until 2015. I don't want to worry anyone, or anything; but I wonder why they stopped there?
Easter Bunnies aren't really rabbits. They're actually large termites. The burrowing confused the ancient Saxons, who assumed all animals that live underground must be rabbits. No wonder the Normans won at Hastings.
Spring chickens bounce better.
In Peru, on Easter Monday, small children bake hen's eggs for up to twelve hours, and then bury them. Nobody knows why.
* Thank you, Sellar and Yeatman.