(A reprint from last year).
The name Easter owes its origin from Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess who symbolises hare and egg. In pagan times a festival was held in her honour.
Decorating and colouring Easter eggs has been recorded as far back as 1290, Edward 1’s court recording the purchase of 450 eggs to gold-leaf and give.
In 1882 the Russian Czar Alexander commissioned Peter Carl Faberge to make a special Easter egg for his wife Marie, starting the Faberge egg tradition.
The word “paschal “ comes from a Latin word meaning belonging to Passover or to Easter, both being preciously closely associated.
In the Northern Hemisphere Easter occurs in the spring, and coincides with pagan rebirth and fertility festivals. Eggs have been a symbol of new life and resurrection since ancient times.
In new areas the Christian Church integrated existing pagan celebrations and customs into Christian religion rather than seek to displace them or have them cease. This applies to Easter.
Easter is a mix of pagan and Christian customs, the celebration of spring, rebirth and new life in pagan rebirth and fertility festivals having been combined with the resurrection of Jesus.
Eggs have long been a symbol of rebirth in many cultures, including Egyptians, Persians, Gauls, Greeks and Romans.The exchange of eggs is a custom that long predates Easter.
The egg painting custom is traditionally known as “Pysanka”. The reason for painting Easter eggs in bright colours is that they represent the bright sunlight of spring time.
Easter is usually celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after March 21st. This means the first Sunday after the full moon after the first day of spring (any-where from March 22 to April 25).
Ham came to be the traditional favourite for Easter dinner because in pre-refrigeration days, hogs were slaughtered in autumn and cured for six to seven months. Just in time for Easter dinner.
The celebration of the Easter season begins with Lent. Lent is the period of fasting and penitence traditionally observed by Christians in preparation for Easter. Lent lasts 40 days from Ash Wednesday.
In Greek Orthodox culture, eggs are painted red, to symbolise the blood of Christ. In parts of Germany and Austria, eggs are painted green. Slavic peoples decorate their eggs in gold and silver patterns.
Chocolate eggs were traditionally given as gifts in Europe. In 19th century France and Germany, small, solid eggs made of bitter dark chocolate were given as gifts. The tradition expanded with modern technology.
Easter baskets are the result of a Catholic custom. Catholics would bring food that made up Easter dinner, such as ham, cheese and bread, to mass, so the priest could bless the ingredients.
In Australia since 1976 there has been a campaign to replace the Easter Bunny with the Easter Bilby, both because of the damage done by introduced rabbits and to support the endangered bilby
In Britain and the US there have been different names given to the Easter holiday to avoid Christian associations, such as “Spring holiday”. In Britain non-religious activities and events are deliberately held.
The Sunday before Easter is Palm Sunday, commemorating Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem when the crowds welcomed him waving palm leaves, which signified rejoicing.
Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week, the countdown to Christ's crucifixion and his resurrection on Easter Sunday. It includes Maundy Thursday (Latin for commandment).
Traditionally, eggs are exchanged on Easter Sunday.
Hot cross buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday.
The white Lily, the Easter flower, is a resurrection symbol.
The name Good Friday comes from “God’s Friday”.
A happy, safe and joyous Easter to all Bytes readers.