History of the Holiday Easter
According to the English medieval historian Bede (673-735) the Anglo-Saxon name of Easter derived from the ancient Teutonic mythology. Eostre is Anglo-Saxon goddess of the spring and month April is dedicated to her while the celebrations in her name have been organized during the spring equinox.
Wanting to make christianity more acceptable to the gentiles, Anglo-Saxon Christians began to use the name Easter as the Christian holiday for the rising of Christ coincides with the ancient celebration of the coming spring. Meanwhile, Easter is more linked to the Jewish Passover holiday, which is celebrated during the first in the Jewish lunar year month of Nisan. Passover marks the liberation of the Jewish people from the 300 years of slavery in Egypt and the leaving of Egypt by the Jewish under the leadership of Moses.
In the Christian tradition of Easter we celebrate the Rising of Jesus Christ from the dead the third day after his death. The celebration of the resurrection dates from the early Christian history. By the second century, Easter is already well established, although there was a long dispute about the date on which should be celebrated. Eastern churches want Easter to be celebrated according to the lunar calendar and a weekday because early Christians celebrated every year on the 14th day of the Jewish month of Nisan, while Western churches insist that Easter is celebrated always on Sunday regardless of the date.
This is one of the main issues of the Council of Nicaea in 325. It decided to celebrate Easter on the first Sunday following the full moon after the spring equinox. According to Theological School of Alexandria, also known for its expertise in astronomical calculations, March 21 was adopted as the date of the spring equinox.
The date for the celebration of Easter starts to be determined by the Sunday that follows the full moon or immediately after the spring equinox. So Easter is defined as a holiday in the period between March 21 and April 25. The difference in today’s celebration is due to differently fixed date in the Gregorian calendar in the West, and according to the Julian in the East.
With the spread of Christianity in ever more new areas, there emerge also different ideas about how it relates to local customs and traditions. Some Christians must completely abandon their cultural traditions, while others say Christianity should preserve local customs, but giving them new Christian meaning.
Easter has many symbols – colored eggs, bunnies with baskets, parades … Although as most of the holidays, Easter is also quite commercialized, many of today’s characters still have their origins in the ancient days.
Colored eggs – Interesting Facts
Since ancient times, many cultures associate the egg with the universe. Persians for example, believed that the Earth was hatched from a giant egg.
In the IV-th century eating eggs during the Fast is prohibited.
In the spring, the hens lay the most. Then people began to boil eggs to preserve them longer. Many people saw in the egg a symbol of rebirth in the spring. Eggs were colored, decorated and painted by the Romans, Gauls, Persians and Chinese. As a Christian religious symbol egg initially embodies the tomb of Christ with the removed stone. Later, the association changed because of the established custom, the eggs are colored red (blood of Christ) and the egg is already seen as a symbol of the birth of the man from nature.
The production of chocolate eggs dates back to 8th century. The wooden ones have long been known, and in the 60s of XX century plastic eggs are also sold. Amazing for its beauty and glamour are the decorative eggs of Peter Carl Fabergé made of precious stones and precious metals.
The Easter Holiday Bunny
The tradition of the Easter bunny is dating since gentile times. People have sacrificed rabbits to Saxon goddess of spring Eostre. At that time it was organized as a ritual hunt of rabbits. Now it is still part of the Easter holiday, but no one perceives it as sacred.
The rabbit is traditionally associated with fertility and abundance, and in ancient rituals and beliefs – with the moon and its cycles.
There is also a legend that the Easter Bunny has been a big beautiful bird belonging to a goddess. Once she has tuned it to a wild rabbit and since it is still a bird at heart, it continues to make nests and to fill them with eggs.
Tradition with eggs and rabbits are actually mixed, when German settlers go to America – they take the Easter Bunny traditions that leaves eggs for the children in the Easter night. Boys and girls should prepare hats as nests for eggs that would be left. This tradition has evolved in the west to rabbit with a basket of eggs these days.
Easter Carnival has its origins in medieval Europe. The early Christians wore white robes in the days marking the resurrection as a symbol of their new life. The newly Baptized even had to wear new clothes after the conversion to show they begin a new life in Christ. After the liturgy at Easter in many cities people walked on the streets with cross and candles. All this is brought together and changed over the years, as in many small towns carnival processions are still undertaken in which people disguise themselves and dress in old-fashioned clothes.
The Traditional Crossed Easter Bread
While Christians see the cross traditional Easter bread as a symbol of the crucifixion of Christ on the cross, they actually come from the Anglo-Saxons who prepared the cross bread in honor of Eostre. These crosses represented the quarters of the moon and the connection with the Earth.
The Traditional Easter Bread is prepared for the first time in France in the 7th century.
Lamb is a very important symbol of Easter in Central and Eastern Europe. It represents Jesus and connects to his death because it was sacrificed on the day of the Resurrection. The Christian tradition presents the Savior as the Lamb of God. In many homes tradition dictates to eat lamb on the first day after a 40-day fast.
More about our traditions can be read here.