Let’s talk about Easter

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This time of the year many people gather with their families to celebrate Easter. That spring holiday that we relate to bunnies, egg hunting, chocolates and pastel colours.

This particular holiday is not my favourite holiday of the year, but I do hold it dear. I remember looking for egg shaped chocolates, and spending time with my family in a huge meal on the afternoon after having spent a week of vacation playing by the pool, or discovering new spots on my city.

But it wasn’t until I was older that I understood why did we celebrate this particular holiday.

That's not the best place to hide chocolate bunnies
That’s not the best place to hide chocolate bunnies

Easter is the most important holiday for Christianity, even more than Christmas. It culminates the season of Lent which is a time for repentance and sacrifice right before the Holy Week and it celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ three days after his death at the cross. No small feat if you ask me, so obviously it deserves a big celebration.

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It has become a popular holiday because of its relation with the Easter bunny and the enormous amount of candy consumed that day. But how did that happen? How was the resurrection of Jesus related with a bunny and the search for coloured covered eggs?

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Like most Christian traditions and holidays, the religious celebration adopted parts of a pagan celebration (Saturnalia and decorated trees for Christmas ring a bell). In this case, they adopted the traditions of the celebration for the anglo saxon goddess for spring and fertility: Eostre. Eostre’s sacred animal is the bunny, and the eggs represent fertility, Bith holidays were celebrated on the beggining of spring a time for joy and growth. So, mystery solved right? Well there’s more to it.

There’s little evidence for this. In fact, some believe that since there’s no record of Eostre or her bunnies prior to 705 A.D. when a monk called St. Bede mentioned her,  it is possible that he might have invented her and her festival. But we do know that rabbits and eggs have been associated with fertility, and this is usually associated with springtime; so there might have been a relation with the date of the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection and the Easter bunny.

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As stated before, eggs represent fertility, but why look for them? There may have been a more practical reason for this. During Lent eggs used to be banned from the diet of Christians, along with dairy and meat so eating them again could have been considered a treat. Eventually leading to paiting them and making a hunt for them. Becoming one of the oldest traditions in the celebration of Easter. A treat that got a little to far and luxurious in Russia in the XIX century. Have you ever heard of Fabergé?

The jacaranda tree always reminds us that something good is on the way.
The jacaranda tree always reminds us that something good is on the way.

Now, the word Easter in Spanish is translated as “Pascua” in french as “Pâques”, in italian “Pasqua”. Why does it change so much? This word comes from the fact that the holiday was set during Passover, the jewish celebration of the liberation from Egypt. It was at this time that Jesus died and resurrected. So, the word has been a derivation from “Pesach” in hebrew.

There are always so many historic elements from different traditions to explain what we do nowadays, and that’s what makes them so rich and interesting.

Lots of Love

Dany

Sources:

Easter. (n.d.). Retrieved April 6, 2015, from http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/history-of-easter

EOSTRE – the Germanic Goddess of Fertility (Germanic mythology). (n.d.). Retrieved April 6, 2015, from http://www.godchecker.com/pantheon/germanic-mythology.php?deity=EOSTRE