Roots of Easter you might not know
6 Apr 2023
There are some fun facts and legends surrounding the Easter period that you may not be familiar with:
There is a lovely legend; that a Saxon Goddess – Eostre happened upon a wounded bird. To help the animal get through winter, she turned the bird into a hare! The hare discovered that it could lay eggs, and so it decorated the eggs each spring and left them as an offering to the Goddess.
England takes its name for Easter from the Anglo-Saxon Goddess of the dawn (mentioned above) – Eostre. The month of March was known as Estor-monath – loosely translated as the month of openings. The rituals and symbols of this time – eggs, hare, sun etc. all focus on the cycle of seasons, a period of renewal and beginnings, fertility and fruitfulness.
Egyptians, Greeks, Iranians and Romans were all known to dye eggs around Easter. Sometimes these were painted in spring-like colours, but often, the eggs were painted red to symbolise Christ’s blood, fertility and re-birth.
Some of the most famous and elaborate decorated eggs are the enamelled version made by Faberge. Originally, they were commissioned by Alexander iii and Nicholas ii – both Russian Tsars. The eggs were created as gifts for their wives, but it is a trend that spread amongst other royalty and aristocrats in early modern Europe.
The March Hare is synonymous with this time of year; and, of course, is linked to fertility, as it is their mating season. Often, hares are depicted in an upright boxing position, which; usually occurs when a female is unreceptive to a male’s advances. This erratic behaviour has coined several phrases: ‘hair-brained’ and ‘mad as a march hare’. This phrase is known by many, thanks to Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.
An animal that you might not associate with Easter is the snake! But in years gone by, they were seen as symbolic of springtime. They would awaken from winter hibernation and literally shed their skin – in a process that was seen, as healing and representative of renewal.
For many, it is not the hare – but the Easter Bunny that is associated with Easter. Traditions came from 16th-century Germans but were taken to America as they travelled. Children would leave out Easter bonnets and nests they had fashioned from grass. In turn, these would be filled with treats from the Easter Bunny. Interestingly, in a similar tradition to Christmas – treats would only be given to children that ‘had been good’!Tweet
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