The Origins of Easter
In many countries, the origins of Easter are associated with the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.
The eggs we eat are a representation of the stone that was rolled away from Jesus’ empty tomb on the third day – the day he was resurrected from the dead.
Nowadays, while this is still widely celebrated, we also have an Easter bunny thrown in. Quite what a small furry mammal has to do with chocolate eggs is anyone’s guess though!
So let’s look into the lesser known celebrations to see if that can explain it.
Easter, like Christmas, was taken over by the Roman Catholic church, who, in their attempts to convert the pagan Romans, mixed their own celebrations with those of the pagans. We wrote about the origins of Christmas here
Although the exact origins of Easter are unknown, some sources believe that the word “Easter” is taken from the Anglo-Saxon goddess of fertility and spring – Eostre. Eostre was a goddess of spring, or renewal, and that’s why her feast is attached to the vernal equinox.
In 325AD the first major church council, the Council of Nicaea, determined that Easter should fall on the Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox.
That is why the date moves, and why Easter festivities are often referred to as “moveable feasts”.
There is a defined period between March 25th and April 25th on which Easter Sunday must fall, and that’s determined by the movement of the planets and the Sun.
It is important to point out that while the name “Easter” is used in the English-speaking world, many more cultures refer to it by terms best translated as “Passover” (for instance, “Pascha” in Greek) – a reference to the Jewish festival of Passover.
In Italian Easter is called Pasqua, in Danish it is Paaske, in Swedish, it’s Påsk, in Dutch, Pasen, and in French it is Paques.
Germans call it Ostern.
So, the rabbits.
Well, rabbits and hares symbolise fertility (probably why we describe people with lots of kids as “breeding like rabbits”), and were associated with the goddess Eostre.
However, the first actual association of the rabbit with Easter is a mention of “Easter hare” in a book by Georg Franck von Franckenau published in 1722.
In it, he recalls a folklore that hares would hide the coloured eggs that children hunted for, strongly suggesting that decorative eggs were hidden in gardens for egg hunts as early as the 1800s.
And the eggs? What’s the story there?
Eggs are simply a symbol of life and rebirth, for fairly obvious reasons.
This ties in with the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Passover – where the angel of death passed over the homes of the Jewish people in slavery in Egypt, the spring, and the vernal equinox – the beginning of summer – all of which symbolise new life and new beginnings.
Whatever this time of year means to you, we wish you peace and health to celebrate it with joy!