Easter is the Christian celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ but I’m sure most of you knew that. What perhaps you weren’t aware of was how a bunny got involved with this and why there are chocolate eggs. If I am honest I always thought this was something to do with the egg symbolising the stone that was rolled back to reveal Christ’s body was no longer in the tomb.However,as I was brought up Roman Catholic nothing else was ever alluded to. So here I am, nearly 40, and thinking hang on a minute… how can a date of something surely so precise, change so much? Why are there so many chocolates around and who is the bunny anyway? I’m not entirely daft, I do realise that lots of our religious celebrations have merged over the years and that many Pagan rituals have been muddled in but I thought it was worth a closer look.
It looks like the Pagans may have us on this one, the general agreement is that it comes from the goddess or fertility and Spring, ‘Eastra’, whom they worshipped. The other common belief is it is from the German word ‘Ostern’, which is linked to the resurrection. Interestingly enough neither Easter nor Christmas are mentioned as festivals in the Bible and are thought to be more recent celebrations.
The Date for Easter
Let’s clear this up. The date for Easter is the first full moon after the Spring Equinox, which this year means that Easter weekend is from 14th – 17th April. In Steve’s words, ‘The Romans came and hijacked some Pagan rituals that revolved around the changing of the seasons.’ Actually, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has said he hopes churches can agree to fix the date of Easter within five to 10 years, following discussions between the leaders of different Christian denominations. So that’s as clear as mud, I think the answer is to ask Google!
The Origin of the Easter Egg
Across the world eggs are seen as a symbol of life, fertility and rebirth (so maybe it’s not surprising we kept hold of it). The beautiful painted eggs where a big thing to me when I was growing up (my grandfather being Ukrainian). It is said that the shell represents the impenetrable stone the sealed Christ’s tomb and cracking it represents the resurrection. However, I think it is even more intertwined than that. Traditionally, Christians give up certain foods for Lent. These were things deemed to be the richer foods such as eggs and meat, hence Pancake Tuesday to use up anything left in the pantry.
Nowadays, these foods are not really considered to be to a luxury in the same way and are not desired in the same way. As such many people choose to give up sweets and chocolate (can you see where this is going?) and Easter was the first time to enjoy these things again after a long period of abstinence. During Holy Week churches banned people from eating eggs. As a result these were collected, painted and given to children as gifts. The Victorians embellished this further with decorated boxes and chocolate eggs appear to have arisen with the technology for hollowed eggs. Although it is generally accepted that many different types of gifts can be given, they are normally of an indulgent nature involving sumptuous sponge cake, rich chocolate and maybe even alcohol!
The Easter Bunny
Finally, we reach the animal that hides eggs around the house and garden. The story behind this is a little vague. Essentially, rabbits give birth to large litters in spring and so are seen as a symbol of fertility. S/he then became the courier through German folklore. The Easter Hare was the judge of children’s behaviour as to whether they deserved a treat. However, across other cultures the animal varies, in Switzerland it is a cuckoo and in other parts of Germany have a fox. Either way I suppose there are lots of helpers to deliver Easter treats, maybe we could employee some to help us!
At the end of all this though, we are loving the fact that spring has sprung and the children can play outside again. We do send cards and delicious treats to people we love. Click here to see what gifts you can post through the letterbox this year.