Depending on which country you’re from, you may or may not be familiar with Easter traditions.
Easter in Australia falls during autumn, when the weather begins to cool somewhat (which is convenient, so that all those chocolate Easter eggs hidden in the garden don’t melt!).
For those who are unaccustomed with Easter on the whole, it may be curious for you to see that the date is different every year. The reason has to do with the religious significance on the Christian calendar.
According to Christians, Easter Sunday is the day Jesus Christ was resurrected following his death on the cross, which happened on the Friday before, also known as Good Friday.
Easter Sunday falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon in the spring of the northern hemisphere. So it could be a date as early as 22nd March or as late as 25th April.
Easter in Australia is most commonly recognised as running for four days: Good Friday, Easter Saturday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday. Public holidays (or bank holidays) are Good Friday and Easter Monday when banks and government organisations are closed for business.
Many retail stores close for Good Friday and Easter Sunday but are open on the other days. There is a lot of confusion and misunderstanding between the states as to when businesses should open or remain closed and many choose their trading hours for themselves.
Hospitality traders often apply a public holiday surcharge to the cost of meals and drinks purchased in cafes, bars and restaurants to cover the higher wages that must be paid to staff working on those days. The surcharge ranges from five per cent to as high as twenty per cent, so be sure to enquire when making reservations so that you don’t experience a nasty surprise when you go to pay.
Be aware, that if you need to conduct any kind of business in Australia, you will experience difficulties over the Easter long weekend. Post offices and banks will be closed and you likely won’t find any lawyers, medical specialists or travel agents open either.
School children are given time off over the Easter period, usually around a week to two weeks and the start and end dates depend on their state of residency.
Leading up to the Easter school holidays, teachers plan lots of fun activities that touch on the religious significance. Christian-led schools will hold Mass services and religion lessons will focus on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Easter bonnet parades are popular events at primary schools in Australia. In the regular world, an Easter bonnet is a hat that women and girls would traditionally wear to Easter church services. However, at school, it is a fun item of headwear that children make in craft class or with parents at home.
There is often a prize for the ‘best Easter bonnet’. For the most part, bonnets are multi-coloured, completely nonsensical hats designed to make the greatest impact. They often feature painted eggs, little fluffy chick toys, glitter, flowers, ribbons and even birds’ nests.
If you love chocolate, then you will love Easter in Australia! Shops are awash with chocolate Easter eggs. Eggs are considered a symbol of fertility and rebirth, so it makes sense that they are symbolic of the Christian belief in resurrection.
Traditionally, it was customary to give friends and loved ones dyed and/or painted chicken eggs. Commercial enterprises long ago realised that the work involved in decorating eggs was causing the gesture to fade, and in 1873, an English chocolatier introduced the first chocolate Easter egg.
Now, the gifting of chocolate eggs is commonplace, so much so that on average, Australians consume twenty chocolate eggs each over Easter! In fact, the consumption of chocolate over this period makes up 3.6 per cent of the total annual consumption for all of Australia!
Visitors from non-Christian countries are sometimes bemused to see stores offering hot cross buns, when they are not available later in the year. Hot cross buns were traditionally eaten on Good Friday, and the Easter symbolism regards the cross in the Christian tradition.
Today, they are available earlier and earlier in stores, sometimes even in January!
Church leaders maintain that this is terrible commercialisation of a Christian celebration however, consumers often disagree as to how right or wrong it is, many choosing according to how much they enjoy the buns.
If you enjoy a slightly spicy, soft bun studded with currants and candied peel, then go ahead and purchase hot cross buns for yourself. Be sure to warm them in the oven or microwave then spread lots of butter on each half. That is truly the best way to eat them.
For many people, the long weekend over Easter – Good Friday to Easter Monday – means their workplace is closed for four days. This is an excellent opportunity to go away to the beach, the mountains, to visit relatives or fly interstate.
Overseas visitors are sometimes caught unawares and find it tremendously difficult to book accommodation over those dates. That’s why it’s extremely important to plan ahead, check what dates Easter falls on and book early.
Also, because it’s a peak period for accommodation bookings, expect prices to be much higher than at most other times of the year.
Whatever your religion, you may like to embrace Christianity over the Easter period and pop in to a church service. You will be welcome to observe and participate and if you have any questions, simply ask the Priest who officiates.
Easter in Australia has many charms and embraces ancient traditions that, although modernised for today’s population, still hark back to the most significant period in Christian history.