Yes, Easter is earlier this year, but there is no excuse for not being prepared for one of the most widely celebrated holiday seasons across Australia.
The shops have been full of chocolate eggs, Easter bunnies and Easter-themed gifts for ages now, with its impending arrival the centre of attention in schools, in the media and above all in the minds of families looking forward to the coming four-day holiday.
Then there is the all important religious aspect which will see millions of Christians around the world attending church services starting on Good Friday.
Easter this year begins on March 30 (Good Friday) and ends on April 2 (Easter Monday). Next year it will be later, running from April 19-22.
While Easter is anchored to the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus, there are few Australian households that don’t make Easter bunny, chocolate eggs and family a major focus.
Most everyone grew up associating Easter with a bunny who brings lollies and eggs, so no one questions how this legend came to be. When you actually think about it, though, it’s an odd tradition.
Rabbits don’t, after all, lay eggs, or deliver gifts. The Easter bunny is nonetheless a cherished holiday for children all around the world.
One explanation for the presence of rabbits and eggs is aligned to an attempt to Christianize Easter, which began as a pagan holiday.
The celebration was named for a Saxon goddess who was known by the names of Oestre or Eastre, and in Germany by the name of Ostara. She is a goddess of the dawn and the spring, and her name derives from words for dawn, the shining light arising from the east. Our words for the “female hormone” estrogen derives from her name.
Since ancient times rabbits have been associated with spring.
It is believed that Anglo-Saxon Goddess of Spring, Eostre, had a hare as her companion. The hare symbolizes fertility and rebirth. Later Christians changed the symbol of the hare to the Easter bunny.
From a Christian perspective, Easter eggs are said to represent Jesus’ emergence from the tomb and resurrection.
The decoration of eggs is believed to date back to at least the 13th century, while the rite of the Easter parade has even older roots. Other traditions, such as the consumption of Easter sweets, are among the modern additions to the celebration of this early springtime holiday.
One explanation for this custom is that eggs were formerly a forbidden food during the Lenten season, so people would paint and decorate them to mark the end of the period of penance and fasting and then eat them on Easter as a celebration.
The tradition is that the Easter bunny leaves Easter eggs on Easter Sunday.
In Australia, an abundance of rabbits became a nuisance. The endangered bilby, however, looks similar to a bunny, and has become a new symbol of the season, although bunnies still dominate shop shelves.
Easter egg hunts and egg rolling are two popular egg-related traditions, particularly in the US.
In the U.S. the White House Easter Egg Roll, a race in which children push decorated, hard-boiled eggs across the White House lawn, is an annual event held the Monday after Easter.
The first official White House egg roll occurred in 1878, when Rutherford B. Hayes was president.
The event has no religious significance, although some people have considered egg rolling symbolic of the stone blocking Jesus’ tomb being rolled away, leading to his resurrection.
There is a small downside of the Easter holiday break.
It is notoriously difficult to find shops and eateries open on the Easter long weekend, but some restaurants and fast food services are expected to keep doors open over the weekend for delivery via UberEats, Deliveroo, Menulog and Foodora – particularly important on Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
In terms of movies, all major cinemas will be operating as normal over the whole weekend.
When it comes to transport over the weekend, trains and buses will continue to operate but on the public holiday and weekend schedules depending on the capital city.
In terms of just how many shops will be closed, you can consider Good Friday as a smaller version of Christmas Day where most places’ doors will be shut.
In major cities, big named retailers are all closed.
This goes for Woolworths, Coles and Aldi as well as fashion retailers including JB-Hi Fi, Myer, Big W and Kmart.
Most of these are based in big shopping centres, which are all also closed.
Don’t worry too much about needing to get fuel with 7-Eleven stations and Coles Express open across the country.
Bottle shops such as Dan Murphy’s, BWS and Liquorland will be closed.
Saturday is the ideal day to head to the shops if you’ve forgotten to pick anything up with retail stores operating as normal across Australia.
Check websites for your local store’s trading times just to be sure before you head out.
The same goes for shopping on Easter Sunday and Easter Monday and there are major shopping hour legislative differences between some states.