Chocolate eggs, hot cross buns and on a different date each year: Where does Easter come from?
- Why the festival is named Easter
- Why the date changes each year
- Where Easter eggs and other tasty treats come from
On Good Friday, I wrote about the Christian festival of Easter, but celebrating this time of year in this way comes from a long time before Christianity.
Easter usually occurs on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox.
The idea of celebrating something in the Spring time, relating to phases of the moon is a very pagan idea.
The festival is something of a celebration of fertility, and the Christian rebirth idea echoes this.
Furthermore it is suggested that the son dying on the cross to be reborn comes from a point when the Sun sets over the Southern Cross constellation in the sky, although that may be more of a coincidence.
The name Easter comes from the pagan godess Eostre, the Godess of Spring.
The tradition of Easter eggs may come from the same Godess who, according to legend, healed a wounded bird by changing it into a hare. The grateful bird/hare laid eggs as thanks to Eostre, and is presumably the origin of the Easter Bunny.
The painting and cracking of eggs is actually a Christian tradition, symbolising rebirth and the cracked egg representing Jesus's empty tomb.
There have been many figures in religion and mythology who have died and been resurrected at Easter time. The Sumerian godess Ishtar, the Egyptian Horus and the Greek Dionysus all share such a fate with the Christian Jesus.
Hot Cross Buns and other cakes were not initially approved of by the Church, but as the Pagans would not give in and stop making them at Easter, the Christians eventually decided to co-opt and bless the cakes instead.
Whether you believe in Christianity and celebrate Easter as a symbollic representation of Jesus's life, or you prefer to see the Christian story as an allegory for Spring and the time of fertility, or you follow another faith, or you think the whole thing is nonsense, I'm sure we can all agree... having a four day weekend is pretty sweet!