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What is Easter?
Easter is one of the most important and holiest of all the festivals on the Christian calendar. It is a celebration of death and of rebirth as Christians celebrate the crucifixion and subsequent rising from the dead of Jesus Christ.
These days, Easter is celebrated with a church service on Good Friday, and the giving of small Easter Gifts on the Sunday.
As with many other Christian celebrations, a lot of our Easter symbols and traditions of today have their roots in paganism. When the Emperor Constantine of Rome converted to Christianity and decreed it to be the sole religion of the empire, the Christian religious leaders integrated many of the pagan rituals that were common at the time with those of Christianity.
Now I take a look at some of the most common Easter symbols and traditions and how they originated.
The word "Easter"
The word Easter is said to come from the name of a beautiful pagan goddess of the spring, Eostre. Eostre was honoured during the spring equinox, the time when we now celebrate Easter.
Over the centuries, the egg has been considered the ultimate symbol of rebirth and new life. In all cultures through the ages, the egg has symbolised the beginning of everything, especially new life.
To Christians, it symbolises the death and rebirth of Christ, but more, it also celebrates their new life in Christ when they become a Christian.
The Easter Bunny is in fact an Easter hare. Hares have long since symbolised the moon, and it is the first full moon after the spring equinox that determines the date of Easter each year. The hare is a nocturnal creature, coming out at night with the moon and was thought to neither blink nor close their eyes.
According to one legend, the Easter Bunny was originally a large beautiful bird that belonged to Eostre. One day, she chose to transform her bird into a hare. As the Easter Bunny still thinks he's a bird, he continues to fill nests with eggs which he then leaves in our gardens for children to find at Easter.
Hot Cross Buns
One of the oldest and most delicious traditions of Good Friday is the eating of hot cross buns. These spicy buns, which are marked with a white cross are said to have originated in pagan times. The early Romans, Greeks, and Egyptians all marked their breads with symbols that honoured their gods and goddesses.
The custom of eating hot cross buns has given rise to many superstitions. Some believed that a hot cross bun which was kept from one Good Friday to the next would bring good luck to the household, while others believed that hanging a hot cross bun over the fireplace ensured that all bread baked there would be perfect. Still others believed that eating hot cross buns on Good Friday protected the family and the house from fire.
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