Easter is one of the oldest and the most important festivals in the Christian calendar. It celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ and is held between March 21st and April 25th on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the northern spring equinox.
Easter is not a single celebration as some might think, it is in fact a combination of many celebrations, spanning thousands of years and is a mixture of both pagan and modern religions. The artifacts and items associated with Easter including the Hare (nowadays known as the “Easter Bunny”,) the Easter Eggs, the Baskets, the Flowers, the Pastries and Cakes of Europe, the Chocolates and the traditional feast on the Easter Sunday, all have their lineage in a variety of distinct and in many cases, completely un-Christian roots. For instance, it would be hard to imagine Easter without Easter Baskets.
Traditionally, Easter baskets were filled with candy and chocolates; in North America, Jelly Beans even. Before the Northern Americanization of the Easter Basket, it would help us to understand that at the the Spring equinox, the peasants of the time — who were quite superstitious — would wish to celebrate spring with a special feast and believed it would bring good fortune on their home if they took this food to the local church to have their food blessed by their priest. They would take this food to the church in a basket; hence the “Easter Basket” and of course the corresponding feast.
What many people don’t realize is that Easter Sunday is really a combination of many events leading up to it; including ÔlentÕ and various other non-Christian events. For instance in the Roman Catholic church, Easter is only a part of an entire season of rituals and includes observances that begin 46 days before Easter itself. Lent ends on Easter, hence the traditional large sumptuous family meal.
Other Easter related symbology includes the Easter Egg, which, prior to Christianity and the Christianization of the celebration, represented the new seasons, new life and fertility. Scenes like the rising sun and northern lights were printed on the ritual Easter Eggs by the Pagans during their celebration. Christians believe in a legend whereby the Virgin Mary is said to have offered eggs to the Roman soldiers in exchange for not killing her son. Eggs are, therefore, considered lucky gift to share on Easter.
Lilies, in particular, White Lilies represent the purity of new life. Although there is also the belief that they sprung up in the garden of Gethsemane around the feet of Jesus Christ as he was dying on the Cross for our sins during his crucifixion.
The Easter Bunny was originally a Hare and was apparently a symbol of the goddess Eostre. Later it was recognized that rabbits are more fertile than hares and in time, the bunny became the more prevalent image.
Today Easter is celebrated not only in North America but all round the World. Each country , each symbol and each tradition; marking a certain tradition of life, renewal, rebirth and resurrection, not just for the Christian belief but for the rejuvenation of the world as winter comes to an end and is replaced by the warmth of spring.