Pascha, or the Passover, was a spring celebration of the biblical Jews liberation from slavery in Egypt. As Christianity spread throughout the Roman world, Christians began to observe the Passover and also celebrate Christ’s power over death as a part of the ceremonies. The committee’s intent was to set a date that Greeks, Romans and Christians would feel comfortable with.
For most Christians of the world, Easter is the day to celebrate and commemorate Christ’s resurrection on the third day following his crucifixion, but it also has some pagan roots as well.
The word EASTER
The word Easter came from a derivation of mythological goddesses. There are a few possibilities:
Eostre, whose name meant spring, was the “mother goddess of the Dawn and the spring” to the Saxon people of Northern Europe. (The word estrogen, a female hormone, is also derived from her name).
Ostara, of Anglo-Saxon Celtic root, mythology was the goddess of fertility who brought an end to winter and loved “new life, flowers and chick and eggs”. Her sacred pet was a rabbit.
Ishtar, was the ancient Babylonian goddess of romance, procreation and war (Interesting combination). In Sumerian, she was called Inanna. The oldest writings ever discovered, the Babylonian myth “Enema Elish and the story of Gilgamesh” was the first written story told of a resurrection. Scholars believe it is based on oral mythology and recorded about 2,100 BCE.
There is a Latin proverb which says, “Omne vivum ex ovo” which means, all life comes from an egg.
The “egg” has long been a pagan symbol of rebirth of the Earth and was adopted by Christians as a symbol of the resurrection. The egg, while being dormant, contains new life sealed within it. Egyptians, Persians, Phoenicians and Hindus believed the world began as a giant egg. The earliest recorded ancient religion, Zorostrians, of Persia, painted eggs for their New Year celebration, which falls on the spring equinox.
Easter marks the end of Lent, in the Catholic religion, a period of 40 days of fasting from meat and dairy products. Historically, eggs were strictly forbidden during Lent. Lent began with “Fat Tuesday” “Pancake Day”, to designate the last day to eat up all the meat dairy and egg products before Lent started. Extra eggs were often hard boiled to preserve their shelf life, and later eaten on Easter, that may be the connection with hard boiled eggs.
A pious legend among some Christian religions says that Mary Magdalene was bringing hard cooked eggs, (which was a part of Jewish tradition) to share with the other women at the tomb of Jesus. The eggs in her basket were miraculously turned red when she saw the risen Christ. There are some very old art pieces that show Mary Magdalene holding a red egg, which is said to represent the blood of Christ.
Egg rolling games are said to be a symbolic re-enactment of the rolling away the stone, at the tomb of Christ.
Late in Medieval Christianity it was believed that eggs laid on Good Friday, if kept 100 years, would have their yolks turned into a diamond. This myth probably only lasted about a hundred years.
I don’t know exactly when chocolate eggs were introduced as a part of Easter, but it was a good move.
Rabbits and hares, have long symbolized fertility, bringing an abundance of new life.
The rabbit was also the sacred pet of the goddess Ostara.
He was first a bird, whose wings had been frozen by the snow because the goddess of spring had arrived late. She saved his life and turned him into a snow hare. She gave him the gift of speed, so he could protect himself from hunters, but because he was a bird first, he could lay eggs in all the colors of the rainbow. He eventually angered the goddess and she sent him into the sky to be a constellation (Lepus, the hare, at the feet of the hunter Orion). He was allowed to come to earth once every year, only to give away his eggs to the children attending the Ostara festivals that were held each spring. The Easter bunny tradition had begun.
Miscellaneous Egg Surprise!
Who doesn’t love a good Easter Egg hunt? My mother used to hide real hard boiled eggs, until the following year, when some of the grandchildren were coming back with smelly old eggs from the past year. Now, it’s all plastic eggs for our hunts. Sometimes plastic eggs can have treasures, messages and surprises hidden in them, which makes the search even more fun.
However, there is a media joke about “Easter Eggs” and the symbolizing of secret messages hidden in plain sight. Perhaps everyone else knows of it. To me, it was a complete surprise!
The word or picture of an Easter Egg can mean a hidden message, video, graphic, sound effect or other surprise! They might show up in a video game, commercial, web site, movie or wherever. Sometimes, when an Easter egg appears, if clicked on, you might hear a strange sound or secret message pop up or picture, or you may be taken to a different web site. These “Media Easter Eggs” are usually harmless and entertaining, but not always. (This would make a great video game: “The Great Easter Egg Scramble”).
So, enjoy your Easter Egg hunt, whether on land or computer. But, “Beware”, I have no idea what might be in those hidden Easter Egg sites nor what kind of folks might hide those strange Easter eggs.
I am content with hiding my own Easter Eggs!