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13 April 2017
A few more days and then it will be Easter. For some, the day is just another amongst many, often squeezed in between Spring Break. For others, it’s a time to celebrate, wearing spring pastels and bonnets. And of course, for children, Easter equals chocolate bunnies and egg hunts.
But, besides the R&R, bright colors and delicious sweets, how did Easter evolve from being a religious celebration to one of Peter Cottontail?
Most historians affirm that Easter was originally a pagan festival, deriving from the Saxon goddess of spring, Eastra. Sacrifices were offered to her each year around Passover. Passover is celebrated by those of the Jewish faith to commemorate the story of the Exodus where the Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt by Moses. However, by the 8th century, Anglo-Saxons had adopted the name to celebrate Christ’s resurrection, which is why the two festivals often overlap.
Unlike a traditional twelve month calendar, which is based off of the solar year, the Jewish calendar begins in late September or early October with the celebration of Rosh Hashana and is based on the twelve lunar months. Each new month is dictated by the new moon, which means a full moon falls halfway through the month. The seventh moon is called the month of Nisan with Passover being celebrated on the 14th day of Nisan when the moon is full.
Easter, on the other hand, is observed on the first Sunday following the first full moon that comes on or after the vernal equinox (first day of spring). That’s why Easter can fall as early as March 22nd or as late as April 25th; but in most instances, it’s the same full moon that is celebrated on the 14th day of Nisan, or rather during Passover.
There are many stories and fables attributed to how the Easter bunny started. However, what can be agreed upon is that rabbits and eggs indicate the beginning of spring and are linked to fertility. As a result, one story comes from ancient Eastern culture about the fertility goddess, Ostara.
As the legend goes, when Ostara comes to earth in early spring, she finds a wingless bird and takes it in as a pet. Feeling sorry for the animal who can no longer fly, she turns him into a snow hare, giving him the ability to run. However, still honoring his earlier life as a bird and her own gift of fertility, she gives him the ability to lay eggs in all the colors of the rainbow.
We hope you enjoy your Easter, whether it be filled with rest and relaxation or egg hunts and hams. And should you find yourself with a lot of eggs to bring home, you can always use your stairlift to get them upstairs!
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