The origins of Easter tradition

Easter is arguably the most important date in many Christians' calendars ? the celebration of the rising of Jesus Christ is marked in over 80 countries worldwide. Yet while chocolate eggs, rabbits and highly decorated hats seem incongruous symbols of such an important religious ceremony, in modern days they are intrinsically linked to Easter. One theory is that this is mainly to do with the timing of the celebration; Easter generally coincides with the beginning of Spring; in essence nature leaves the dark days of winter behind and "springs back to life".

In fact scholars seem to agree that they very word Easter refers to the dawn of a rising sun. But why the Easter Bunny; why not the Easter Chicken, bearing in mind that eggs are involved? As with many traditions there does not seem to be one definitive answer. The well-documented sex lives of rabbits means that they are oft-recognised as symbols of fertility and life, which fits with the religious theme of new life and also with the dawn of Springtime. In fact, in German folklore our furry friends were an important symbol of Spring, as Ostara - the Goddess of Spring Festival - was often accompanied by a hare. On top of that, folklore claimed that witches could turn themselves into rabbits, giving the animal mystical quality and supposed magical powers, as well as a reputation for good luck. The tradition for Easter bonnets has its roots in much more recent times and could be argued to be the most short-lived of the traditions.

In the 1930s there was a trend in the US for wearing hats and Spring time was when ladies splashed out on a brightly adorned new hat, often with rivalry involved as to whose was biggest and best; and so the fashion for the Easter bonnet was born. However, these days the tradition seems to be limited to children using their creativity to create a home-made Easter bonnet rather than a lasting fashion trend. And so to the egg, perhaps the most prolific symbol of Easter. References to the egg and new life can be tracked back to ancient times; some scholars claim that many civilisations believed that the World and the Sun were once one large 'egg', which broke in two and from which all life subsequently spawned. Eggs are accepted as symbols of fertility and life and so too are intrinsically linked to Springtime, when new life can literally be seen sprouting through the earth. There are many games and traditions associated with the egg and Easter ? egg painting, egg rolling, Easter egg hunts.

But perhaps in England the most popular form of egg these days is the chocolate easter egg, which confectionery companies fully embrace, ensuring shelves are stacked with beautifully coloured and wrapped chocolate displays weeks before the event. However, in these health conscious time some parents are turning to alternative Easter presents for children. Some people believe these traditions 'dumb down' the religious meaning of Easter. However, it could be said that it helps to keep the religious festival alive; a vast numer of the British population will celebrate Easter and if just some of them remember and think about the religious story then surely this is something to help the Church's cause? .

Andrew Regan is an online, freelance author from Scotland. He is a keen rugby player and enjoys travelling.


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