Events & Activities

A Classic Victorian Easter

As Easter Sunday approaches next week and we celebrate the Easter holidays, we think back on what Easter might have been like for the Killick family back in the 19th century. The Victorian era has had a reputation for defining certain celebrations – the Victorians most famously defined Christmas, but they had a role in influencing how Easter is celebrated today too.

The name Easter is believed to have originated from the term “Eostre”. Eostre was a pagan fertility goddess who was primarily celebrated by the Pagans around the time of spring. As eggs and rabbits were seen as symbols of birth and rebirth during that time, they were used as a way of representing Eostre. It was the Christians who first made Easter into a religious occasion – one that focused on the resurrection of Jesus Christ after his crucifixion.

In a previous blog post we mentioned that the Tudors did not celebrate Easter in the same way that we do nowadays, and in fact some of the customs we see as essential today were actively discouraged back in the day. It was Lent that was seen as the major occasion instead, with Easter simply being something to cap it off. Most likely, the Tudors focused more on the religious aspect of Easter rather than merely a celebration of spring.

It was the Victorian era in which Easter became more of a festive celebration rather than solely a time of remembrance. It also highlighted the spring aspect of it that the Pagans had originally celebrated. Church’s where people attended Easter services would be decorated with flowers, as were homes. Women in particular would create lace and beadwork in floral designs in order to cover their tables and shelves. The flowers tended to be simple yet beautiful ones such as lilacs, lilies, pansies and tulips as well as blossom.

January 1840 was the advent of the uniform one penny postage rate, meaning that cards were a more economical way of staying in touch than ever, especially around Easter time. Greetings cards featuring symbolic images such as the cross or spring imagery such as lambs and bunnies were distributed – fitting that the Victorians were also into Christmas cards! They tended to be printed on brightly coloured paper in order to emphasise the happy and lively nature of spring. People either bought the cards at a cheap price or made their own ones.

Whilst eggs had always been distributed between people, chocolate eggs were properly introduced around the Victorian era. The famed chocolatier John Cadbury was already releasing them in 1842, but in 1875 in particular, his company released the Cadbury’s Creme Egg. Easter egg hunts and egg rolling were also introduced to England during their time by the Germans, similar to the Christmas tree. Children would often dye eggs with beets, cranberries, lemon peel and oranges, as well as take part in the egg hunts and egg rolling. Those who won them often received a special prize.

Easter meals were also a popular Victorian tradition. They often consisted of ham or lamb, paired with vegetable dishes. Accompanying them were hot chocolate buns and Easter breads. Additionally, egg dishes were served so as to not waste eggs from the easter egg hunts. A particular favourite of the Victorians was the Simnel cake, a light fruit cake with eleven marzipan balls on top representing Jesus’ disciples (excluding Judas, who had infamously betrayed Jesus to the Romans).

To find out more about life in the Victorian era, come along to our Maid in Whitehall Tour on 7th April. You can book tickets for the event in advance at

Imogen Easton, Whitehall Historic House volunteer

Works Cited:

  1. “10 ways to enjoy a Victorian Easter holiday.” Victorian Homes,
  2. “Victorian Easter Celebrations.” A Truly Victorian Experience, 14 Apr. 2017,

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