He is Risen!
Easter is the time of the Christian year when we, as Christians, remember the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
‘Easter’ is actually the conflation of two old pagan spring festivals. ‘Ostara’ that celebrated new life and the Arabian Sun festival of ‘Ishtar’. Early Christians took over the festivals and turned the pagan festivals of new life to mean the new life that Jesus gave the world when he rose from the dead. Roughly celebrated around the actual date of his crucifixion, the accounting is fairly simple, in that Jesus died at the time of the Jewish Passover festival.
Passover dates from about 4,000 years ago when Jewish people remember that God saved them from slavery in Egypt. Jesus was a Jew and so celebrated the Passover. Passover takes place in the first month of the Jewish New Year (14-15th of the month of Nisan). The Jewish calendar follows the cycle of the moon, so the date changes slightly year to year.
The early Jewish Christians believed Jesus rose from the dead on a Sunday, so Easter Day became the first Sunday after Passover.
So, how did we end up with the Easter Bunny?
The first recorded mention of the custom was in Georg Franck von Franckenau’s De ovis paschalibus (About Easter Eggs) in 1682 referring to a German tradition of an Easter Hare bringing Easter eggs for the children.
In his 1835 Deutsche Mythologie, Jacob Grimm states “The Easter Hare is unintelligible to me, but probably the hare was the sacred animal of Ostara”.
In the past, Orthodox churches abstained from eggs during the fast of Lent. The only way to keep them from being wasted was to boil or roast them, and begin eating them to break the fast. They would probably have been decorated as part of the celebrations. Later, German Protestants retained the custom of eating colored eggs for Easter.
Many Christians of the Eastern Orthodox Church to this day typically dye their Easter eggs red, the color of blood, in recognition of the blood of the sacrificed Christ, while the Ukrainian art of decorating eggs for Easter, known as pysanky, dates to ancient, pre-Christian times.
The idea of an egg-giving hare went to the U.S. in the 18th century. Protestant German immigrants in the Pennsylvania Dutch area told their children about the “Osterhase” Hase means “hare”, not rabbit, and in Northwest European folklore the “Easter Bunny” indeed is a hare. According to the legend, only good children received gifts of colored eggs in the nests that they made in their caps before Easter.
Take a moment today to remember the real reason we celebrate, and what it means in our lives… And remember those who cannot practice their freedom of religion in other parts of the world.