|The iconic symbols of Easter (Kellogg 4/8/12)||| Print ||
Easter – a time of renewal and rebirth in religious communities around the world with Christians honoring the rising of Jesus Christ from the dead and his Resurrection into heaven.
Easter has always had a non-religious side. The ancient Saxons celebrated the return of spring with a pagan festival commemorating their goddess of offspring and springtime – Eastre. Early Christian missionaries, along with early converts to Christianity, sought ways to celebrate without persecution. As the festival of Eastre coincided with the observance of the rising of Christ, it made sense to alter the festival to make it a Christian celebration as the number of converts grew. The name Eastre was eventually changed to the modern spelling we all know, Easter.
What about the eggs and bunnies and assorted Easter traditions? All are symbols of rebirth and spring. The egg is a symbol of the Resurrection out of which life springs. Even the Easter Bunny is not a modern invention.
As part of the original pagan festival of Eastre, the goddess Eastre was worshipped through her earthly symbol, the rabbit. Hares and rabbits were seen as the most fertile of animals and came to symbolize new life.
It’s believed the Germans brought the symbol of the Easter Bunny to America. It’s first mentioned in German writing in the 1500s. Edible Easter Bunnies, originally made of pastry and sugar, also came from Germany.
The children of German settlers in Pennsylvania Dutch country would look for the arrival of the Oschter Haws [Easter Bunny] on Easter Day. If the children were really good, the Oschter Haws would lay a nest of colored eggs. Boys and girls would use their caps or bonnets to make a nest in a secluded place in the home with the hope that the Easter Bunny would bring eggs. The use of Easter baskets came later as the tradition of the Easter Bunny spread.
Eggs have been a symbol of rebirth in many cultures. By the 19th century in America, the Easter Bunny and hiding baskets of eggs, chocolates, candy chicks and jelly beans had become a national tradition.
As a child I remember the Easter Bunny finding my family no matter where we were. A couple times we were travelling and that amazing Bunny still managed to find us in hotel rooms. I’d awaken to jelly beans and chocolate eggs adorning mirrors, window sills and even the bathroom sink.
Usually we were home, hunting for our basket of goodies before setting off to church. The baskets were hidden; the jelly beans were everywhere.
Church on Easter Sunday was a rite of spring in and of itself. In those days church always meant your best clothes, hats and white gloves. Gloves were for the women and girls, hats were for all; though the men and boys couldn’t wear theirs inside the church. I always thought the fedora was a great look.
Nowadays the religious holiday still reins high. Plastic eggs and toys seem the more common prizes for children. Church is still the centerpiece with religious celebrations, family gatherings and cultural feasts varying around the world. The common thread is very individual and comes when we pause for self-reflection and spiritual renewal. .. and maybe a chocolate bunny. Happy Easter.
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