Easter falls in Spring, right around the Vernal Equinox. The name is thought to come from the Scandinavian “Ostra” and the Teutonic “Ostern” or “Eastre,” both Goddesses of mythology signifying spring and fertility. However, the holiday has evolved a great deal since its origin. The pagan festival of Eastre occurred at the same time of year as the Christian observance of the Resurrection of Christ. Plants come alive again from the winter season, when they seemed to be dead. It made sense, therefore, to alter the festival itself, to make it a Christian celebration. The early name, Eastre, was eventually changed to its modern spelling, Easter.
Of all of the symbols associated with Easter, the egg is the most recognized. In Christianity, the egg is a symbol of Resurrection or more precisely the rolling stone, representing the emergence of Christ from His tomb to everlasting life. The spring symbol in Pagan times is the seed or egg- the symbol of fertility and promises new life as in trees, birds, and many other animals are hatched from eggs. In fact, the Persians, Hindus and Egyptians believed that the world began with a single egg.
Originally Easter eggs were traditionally exchanged as gifts. After they were colored or painted with designs, lovers and romantic admirers exchanged colored eggs in the same manner as valentines! In medieval times eggs were traditionally given at Easter to the servants. In Germany, eggs were given to children along with other Easter gifts. Different cultures have developed their own ways of decorating Easter eggs. For instance, the crimson eggs embedded in Greek Easter Breads are so colored to symbolize the blood of Christ. In Germany and Austria, green eggs are used on Holy Thursday. Slavic people decorate their eggs in special patterns of gold and silver. In Polland and Russia, hours are spent on drawing intricate designs on Easter eggs. In England, members of the royal families gave each other gold-covered eggs as Easter gifts in the middle ages. In early America, children decorated their eggs by using dyes made from natural materials like fruit and leave coloring.
….In Christianity, the egg is a symbol of Resurrection or more precisely the rolling stone, representing the emergence of Christ from His tomb to everlasting life……
Perhaps the most elaborate are Pysanki eggs, a masterpiece of skill and workmanship from the Ukraine. Melted beeswax is applied to the fresh white egg which is then dipped in successive dyes. After each dip, wax is painted over the area where the preceding color is to remain. Eventually a complex pattern of lines and colors emerges into a work of art.
In many countries, the colored eggs are hard boiled, and in some they “blown” i.e. The contents removed by piercing the end of each egg with a needle and blowing the contents into a bowl. The hollow eggs are then dyed in various colors and hung from shrubs and trees during Easter Week. Using hollowed egg shells also allows you to preserve favorite eggs from year to year (if you’re very, very careful).
Over the centuries the symbolic associations of the egg have been more or less forgotten, and modern Easter eggs are valued primarily for their colorful appearance. Eggs of chocolate, marzipan or other kinds of candy are favorites of the season.
Games involving Easter eggs have long been popular in many Christian countries. In France, Germany, and Austria, egg picking is a favorite game. It is played by two people, each of whom holds a hard-boiled egg in his/her hand. The players knock or roll their eggs together, and the one whose egg shows the fewest cracks may claim both eggs.
A well-known Easter event in the United States is the annual egg rolling contest on the White House lawn. The tradition of public Easter egg rolling began in 1810, organized by Dolley Madison, wife of President James Madison. In the past, the Egg Roll has been held on the grounds of the Capitol, on the White House South Lawn, and even at the National Zoo.
European legend says that the hare never closed its eyes and watch the other animals throughout the night. It became a symbol of the moon. The hare is connected with Easter because the celebration date depends upon the full moon.
In Egypt, people used to believe that the rabbit was responsible for the new life in spring. Later, early Christians saw it as a symbol for the resurrection of Christ.
According to an old German story, a poor woman hid some brightly colored eggs in her garden as Easter treats for children. While the children were searching, a hare hopped past. The children thought that the hare had left the eggs. So every Easter, German children would make nests of leaves and branches in their gardens for the hare. This custom was brought to the United States when the Germans came. The hare became a rabbit because there were more rabbits in the United States. Today, it is called the Easter bunny.
The Easter bunny also has to do with its pre-Christian origin. The hare were very fertile animals and gave birth to many offsprings in spring. Therefore , the bunny served as a symbol of new life during the Spring season.
EASTER LILY & OTHER FLOWERS
In ancient Rome, people thought a goddess Flora made the flowers bloom. They celebrated the Festival of Floralia by having big parades and carried garlands of blossoms throught the streets to honor her every Spring. The statues of Flora were decorated with flowers.
In ancient Greek , people believed that the goddess Demeter’s daughter was kidnapped while picking the flower narcissus. She was allowed to visit her mother only during spring and summer. The Greeks believed that this made Demeter really happy and made the flowers bloom. They thought that winter is caused by her sadness when her daughter went away again. This flower thus holds a special meaning to the Greeks. The narcissus is also a favorite Easter flower in many parts of the world because of its bright and fragrant blossoms.
The Easter lily is a new but popular easter flower. The easter lily was brought into the United States in 1882 from Bermuda. They serve as a reminder of the purity of Christ. And the bell shaped flower is that in a shape of a trumpet announcing victory.
BONFIRES & CANDLES
The Celts, a prehistoric race or people, practiced a religion called Druidism. They believed in good and evil spirits. It was believed that evil spirits captured the sun god and that was why there was winter. Every beginning of Spring, they would lit up huge bonfires to frighten away the evil spirits into releasing the sun. In India the festival is called Holi. The lighting of bonfires are still a part of Easter celebrations in some countries today such as in Germany and Belgium. Christians associate bonfires to, the light coming to the world through Christ. The candle is also used as a symbol of the light of Christ.
Author: Sylvia DSouza- UAE