Though today it is perhaps most celebrated as a time to gorge ourselves on various egg-shaped chocolate delicacies, Easter has, of course, a much deeper meaning behind it.
For Christians, Easter is the time to celebrate Christ’s ressurection, proving that he was the son of God and their belief in the promise of eternal life. However, Easter did not always symbolize this; the meaning of Easter before the birth of Christianity was quite different than what is celebrated today. Originally, Easter was the feast of an Anglo-Saxon goddess known as Eostre or Eastre (pictured right, in “Ostara” - the High German version of her name - in 1884 by Johannes Gehrts).
It is thought that Eostre was the goddess of the dawn for Anglo-Saxons, and that the fourth month of the year, Eostur-monath, was named after her. Much theory and speculation surrounds her, as even in 725 when the Benedictine monk the Venerable Bede wrote his famous treatise ‘De temporum ratione’ (“On the Reckoning of Time”), he stated that the pagan rituals surrounding her had already died out.
Like many Christian holy days, the resurrection fell around the same time as the Saxon’s feasting in honour of Eostre. So, in order to ease the conversion process, early missionaries merged the two celebrations together to form the Easter as we know it today.
Anyone with children or grandchildren will probably be starting to think about either an Easter Egg Hunt, or Easter Egg decorating with the children and the simplest way to do that is to break out the acrylic paints! More than 2,500 years ago, the ancient Persians were painting eggs for their New Year celebrations, which fell on the Spring Equinox. Sculptures on the walls of the ancient city of Persepolis show people carrying eggs for these occasions to the King.
DIFFERENT WORLD TRADITIONS:
In the US state of Louisiana, they’ve been knocking eggs together for around sixty years. It’s all part of a competition where you’re knocked out if your egg cracks, leaving just one winner remaining.
Church Bells in France and parts of Belgium and the Netherlands stay silent for a number of days in the run up to Easter. The tradition says that the bells fly out of their steeples and fly to Rome, returning on Easter morning bringing both coloured eggs and hollow chocolate shaped like eggs and rabbits.
Much like Bonfire Night in the UK, the northern and eastern parts of the Netherlands, as well as many parts of Northern Germany, light fires at sunset on Easter Day. This is a pre-Christian tradition, dating back to Saxon times when the people believed that the fire helped spring to become victorious over winter.
HOT CROSS BUNS
Traditionally associated with Good Friday, but now eaten throughout the year, these delicious spiced buns are served primarily in Britain, but also in the United States, Australia and New Zealand (where currants are often substituted for chocolate chips) and also in the Czech Republic, where it is a cake known as Mazanec.