Well it’s springtime again and guess what that means… Fertility. Yes, you read me right, spring and Easter in particular is wrought with symbolism and celebration of fertility. And you thought it was just Jesus this and Jesus that. Well Jesus – think again.
Today is Easter, the christian holiday celebrating the resurrection of Christ. But Easter also entails the bizarre tradition of the Easter Bunny bringing brightly colored Easter eggs. So how did these two very different celebrations come to exist in the same holiday? And why eggs and rabbits anyways?
The answer lies in the ingenious way that the Christian church absorbed Pagan practices. After discovering that people were more reluctant to give up their holidays and festivals than their gods, they simply incorporated Pagan practices into Christian festivals. The hope was to make Christianity more appealing to pagan folk who were reticent to give up their fun filled festivals for the more somber Christian ones.
In second century Europe, the predominate spring festival was a rather raucous Saxon fertility celebration in honor of the Saxon Goddess Eastre, whose sacred animal was a hare. The hare is often associated with moon goddesses; the egg and the hare together represent the god and the goddess, respectively. Pagan fertility festivals at the time of the Spring equinox were common- it was believed that at this time, male and female energies were balanced.
In many cultures, the egg is viewed as the symbol of new life. It is, after all, the perfect example of fertility and the cycle of rebirth. Ancient Romans and Greeks used eggs as symbols of fertility, rebirth, and abundance. In Persia, eggs have been painted for thousands of years as part of the spring celebration of No Ruz, which is the Zoroastrian new year. In Iran, the colored eggs are placed on the dinner table at No Ruz, and a mother eats one cooked egg for each child she has.
Moving forward fifteen hundred years, we find ourselves in Germany, where the character of the “Easter bunny” first appeared in 16th-century German writings. It was said that if well-behaved children built a nest out of their caps or bonnets, they would be rewarded with colored eggs. This legend became part of American folklore in the 18th century when German immigrants settled in the eastern U.S.
Today, the Easter business is a huge commercial venture. Americans spend nearly $1.2 billion a year on Easter candy, and another $500 million on Easter decorations each year. I know – crazy! I must admit that I did contribute to this… I broke down and bought a $1 easter egg dyeing kit. Yes, shame on me – but they’re so pretty.
And what do we do with all of those leftover dyed eggs you ask???
We make deviled eggs of course! Yum.
I hope you all enjoy your Easter whether it’s full of Jesus or full of eggs. Either way, I hope it’s full of family, friends, and fun. Enjoy spring – it sure is beautiful out there.
Thanks for reading!