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The confusing questions of Easter

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Every year, the confusing questions come. When is Easter this year and why do the bunnies lay eggs?

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“Most historians, including Biblical scholars, agree that Easter was originally a pagan festival,” says April Holloway, editor and writer of Ancient-Origins. “According to the New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, The word Easter is of Saxon origin, Eastra, the goddess of spring, in whose honour sacrifices were offered about Passover time each year.”

One theory that has been put forward is that the Easter story of crucifixion and resurrection is symbolic of rebirth and renewal and retells the cycle of the seasons, the death and return of the sun.

I am curious how chocolate, egg hunts and bunnies made their way into this holiday scene? I wonder if it is much like the Christmas holiday in which we predominately shower the younger generation with gifts and chocolate creating adoration for the said holiday in hopes they learn the origins of the celebrations along the way? But are we aware of all the said origins of Easter?

When I investigate further, I find no mention of Jesus and a long-eared, short-tailed creature who delivers decorated eggs to well-behaved children on Easter Sunday. Nevertheless, the Easter bunny has become a prominent symbol of Christianity’s most important holiday. The exact origins of this mythical hopping furry friend are unclear, but rabbits are an ancient symbol of fertility and new life.

The most widely-practiced customs on Easter Sunday relate to the symbol of the rabbit (‘Easter bunny’) and the egg. Holloway states the rabbit was a symbol associated with Eostre, the Pagan Goddess of Spring, (also known as Ostara, Austra, and Eastre) representing the beginning of Springtime. Likewise, the egg has come to represent Spring, fertility and renewal. In Germanic mythology, it is said that Ostara healed a wounded bird she found in the woods by changing it into a hare. Still partially a bird, the hare showed its gratitude to the goddess by laying eggs as gifts.

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History shows that people were decorating ostrich eggs as far back as 60,000 years ago, according to some archaeologist findings. Eggs were later often incorporated into Pagan celebrations in the spring, as they were a symbol of new life and reports of early Christian practices state they dyed eggs red to represent the blood shed by Jesus Christ (which admittedly I am grateful this later melodramatic practice is no longer around).

In many Christian traditions, the custom of giving eggs at Easter celebrates new life. Christians remember that Jesus Christ, after dying on the cross, rose from the dead, showing that life could win over death. For Christians the egg is a symbol of Jesus’ resurrection, as when they are cracked open, they stand for the empty tomb.

Easter is the movable feast with no fixed date and planned based on our lunar cycle. It is observed on the first Sunday following the full moon after the spring equinox. Consequently, Easter in the west can be as early as March 22 or as late as April 25.

So eggs, bunnies and Easter have been linked for many a spring equinox full moon. How did chocolate get into the mix?

Solid chocolates and molded chocolates, including egg shapes, were invented in the 1830s, say some sources. Claims of the origin vary from our ancestry in France to Germany. Many reports show that first of their kind were of the healthy version of chocolate made from dark chocolate, but tasted grainy, coarse and bitter. They were also predominately made of oils and fats and very difficult to digest.

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Over the last couple centuries, this has evolved to a mostly milk chocolate commercial market.

That being said, did you know that dark chocolate containing over 70 per cent cocoa has several health benefits, including many nutrients and anti-oxidants?

“Regardless of the very ancient origins of the symbol of the egg, most people agree that nothing symbolizes renewal more perfectly than the egg – round, endless, and full of the promise of life,” says Holloway.

However and why ever you celebrate, take some time to mindfully observe the ever changing cycles as we welcome back the renewal of spring life and growth, both internally and externally.

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