Why do many people pack their shopping baskets full of Easter eggs and chocolate bunnies at Easter? What are they celebrating? Chocolate? Maybe they are … and I’m keen to celebrate chocolate every day.
Eggs represent the rebirth of life. Some say the word Easter is derived from Eostre, an ancient Anglo-Saxon goddess. Her name means ‘movement towards the rising sun’, and from it also come the words estrus and estrogen. She was a goddess of the growing light and spring, associated with fertility and celebrated with a festival of rebirth.
The Christian belief in the resurrection of Christ fits well with these themes, but the arrival of spring was celebrated all over the world long before the religious association with Easter. People were highly aware of seasonal changes and arranged their lives and festivities around them. As Christianity spread throughout the world, non-Christian festivals and symbols were modified and assimilated into Christian traditions. Since ancient times many cultures have associated eggs with the universe. They’ve been dyed, decorated and painted by the Romans, the Persians and the Chinese. Christians of the Near East used the egg to symbolise the tomb from which Jesus broke forth. They were often coloured red to represent the blood of Christ. The Easter tradition of rolling eggs is said to symbolise the rolling away of the rock from Jesus’ tomb.
The vernal equinox
Most of us know that Easter moves its date every year, but not so many know why. Easter is the first Sunday after the first vernal equinox full moon. The vernal equinox signifies the astronomical arrival of spring, the time to celebrate rebirth and renewal as nature resurrects itself from the winter ‘death’.
Hot cross buns
At the feast of Eostre, an ox was sacrificed. Its horns became a symbol for the feast and were carved into the ritual bread, and thus originated ‘hot cross buns’ (the word ‘bun’ is derived from the Saxon ‘boun’, which means ‘sacred ox’). Later a cross was used to decorate the buns; the cross represented the moon, the heavenly body associated with the goddess, and its four quarters. Still later, the cross was symbolic of the cross of the crucifixion.
I think the ‘Holy Land’ could use a good Easter egg hunt these days – rolling a few eggs down the hill instead of exploding in hate and intolerance. We all could. If Easter has no meaning to you at all and is just another day, celebrate anyway as every day is the most beautiful of miracles. Celebrate every minute of it, however, you feel called to.