Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tuesday Tradition #8

The past year I've been fascinated with learning what the symbols and meanings are behind different holiday traditions. I spent a ton of time at Christmas researching the meaning of the star, presents, candy cane, etc. It's exciting to see how far back these traditions go. This past week I've been intrigued with the symbols of Easter. I've celebrated Easter my entire life, am a devoted Christian, but still never knew what some of the traditional symbols meant.
I always wondered by Easter would move so drastically around the calendar...especially this year, March?? Here's what I found. Easter is a movable feast. Using the lunar calendar as determined by the Council of Nicaea in AD 325, Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the Spring Equinox. Most often Spring occurs between March 22 and April 25. Hum...

And the Easter Bunny? Eastre (or "Ostara"), the Anglo-Saxon Teutonic goddess of spring and fertility was often accompanied by a hare when represented. The fertile nature of rabbits and hares is another symbol of new life and the rebirth that occurs during the spring season. Also, German settlers in America are said to have brought over the tradition of a bunny named "Oschter Haws" who would visit houses on Easter eve, leaving colored eggs for children. Easter eggs were painted different colors to represent the sunlight of spring. Christians later used eggs to symbolize the rebirth of Christ.
And of course the Egg...Of all the symbols associated with Easter the egg, the symbol of fertility and new life, is the most identifiable. The customs and traditions of using eggs have been associated with Easter for centuries. Originally Easter eggs were painted with bright colors to represent the sunlight of spring and were used in Easter-egg rolling contests or given as gifts. After they were colored and etched with various designs the eggs were exchanged by lovers and romantic admirers, much the same as valentines. In medieval time eggs were traditionally given at Easter to the servants. In Germany eggs were given to children along with other Easter gifts.
I love this time of year...it's truly a beautiful time to reflect on the miracles of Christ. Enjoy your Easter holiday...even if it's in March!

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