Does the pagan goddess Eostere have anything to do with the Christian celebration of Easter? This brief exploration of the big spring holiday may interest Christians and non-Christians alike.
The German name for April is Ostermontag. The goddess Eostere represented the dawn, so many springtime celebrations developed in her honor.
Later, the celebration of Jesus’ Resurrection originated in Western Asia and Southern Europe.
Using a complex formula, the date is calculated based on the date of Jewish Passover. Accordingly, the exact date varies. Easter on the Gregorian Calendar comes on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the March equinox. Occasionally, this date is in late March, but it usually falls in April.
As Christianity spread to Northern Europe, celebrations of Jesus’ Resurrection in April overlapped with Eoster rituals. The festivities became intertwined. The King James Bible even uses the word “Easter” in reference to the Christian event (Acts 12:4).
Symbols of spring that developed in ancient times gained significance in the Christian tradition. Eggs, as a symbol, for example, took on a Christian meaning. For millennia eggs, symbolizing fertility and rebirth, were associated with spring.
In the northern hemisphere, birds lay eggs in spring, historically an important food source after wintertime austerity. In addition, the egg-hunting tradition harkens to children seeking out eggs in nests. As eggs were valuable nutritious gifts, it became customary to paint them festively.
As a result, various egg dyeing and coloring techniques were developed. For Christians, eggs represent the tomb from which Christ emerged. Painting them red is reminiscent of the blood that was shed.
Over time, eggs gifted at Easter were made elaborate. Wooden eggs were carved with designs. Eggs were wrapped in colorful foil. Papier-Mache eggs were filled with treats. Eventually, plastic-filled eggs became popular. Victoria is credited with spreading the custom of egg hunting.
History has it that she enjoyed egg hunting as a child in Germany. Filling artificial eggs with treats started in Victorian England. In parts of the United States, egg-rolling contests are popular. The tradition spread after President Rutherford Hayes held a contest on the White House lawn in 1878.
In German tradition eggs are brought to children by an egg laying hare. When Germans settled in Pennsylvania to delight children, they continued the tradition that reminded them of home.
As odd as an egg-laying rabbit may seem, the fun caught on and became a primary Easter tradition. Over time, the Easter bunny practice expanded to include baskets filled with treats and toys.
Egg coloring is a major preparation for Easter around the world. For easier handling, boil eggs before coloring. Place raw eggs in a saucepan. Add enough water to cover and a teaspoon of white vinegar to help the color absorb. Bring to a boil for ten minutes.
Let the eggs cool in the water for about 20 minutes. Then remove the water and chill in the refrigerator. Before coloring, return the eggs to room temperature. For Christians, Easter is a six-week event that ends on Pentecost, also called Whitsunday. It honors the descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus’ disciples when they became empowered to gather followers.
Few families could let Easter pass without enjoying at least some of the customs associated with the day. For Easter decorations, shop locally. For egg hunt supplies, shop locally. For chocolate bunnies, shop locally. Local stores are stocked and ready to help everyone celebrate this joyous holiday that celebrates new life.