I found this post on Rachel's Knitting Room, message #26575. It is about the history of Easter.
Ask a child what happens at Easter, and chances are they will tell you all about chocolate eggs and Easter Bunnies, but Easter is more than that. Some children will also be able to share the Easter story of Christ, but only a few will be able to make the connection between the two.
That’s because like many religious holidays, Easter has both a Christian and pagan history. The traditional symbols of Easter have merged somewhere in the middle, and commercial celebrations have taken care of the rest. This year, why not share the story of Easter with your children, and shed some light on why we celebrate the way we do.
In the western world most people attribute Easter to a religious festival, which commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his resurrection from the dead 3 days later. In New Zealand, this Christian story is largely accepted as the origin of Easter, even amongst people who do not actively participate in the Christian faith.
However Easter actually has a non-Christian origin, which dates back before the death and resurrection of Christ. Ancient Saxons used to celebrate the onset of spring by having a festival to commemorate the Goddess of Offspring and Springtime, Eastre. The festival was originally held on different days of the week, but always at the beginning of spring.
In 325AD, Emperor Constantine ruled that Easter would be celebrated on the first Sunday that occurs after the first full moon, on or after the vernal equinox. Exactly how these dates were worked out gets a little complicated, but it meant that Eastre, (and now Easter) can occur anytime between March 22 and April 25. Most countries observe Easter over a 4 day period, from the Friday before to the Monday after Easter Sunday.
The merging of both the Christian and pagan festivals began in the second century. Early Christian converts knew that to observe their ‘holy days’ outside of existing pagan celebrations, would literally mean death. Because of this they continued to celebrate pagan festivals, but did so in a Christian manner. Slowly they were able to spread the Christian message, and pagan and religious festivals began to combine.
As the Eastre festival was celebrated at a similar time to when Christians observed the resurrection, it was this festival that was used for the resurrection celebration. Over time the name Eastre (a pagan Goddess) was replaced with the modern spelling – Easter.
Everybody knows the symbols of Easter, but not everybody knows how they came about. Here are some of the easter symbols and details of how the traditions began.
- Easter Bunny
- Easter Eggs
For many years Easter Eggs were literally eggs wrapped in gold leaf, or dyed using flower petals and brightly coloured plants. It was not until Easter became commercialized, that chocolate and candy eggs became a part of the celebration.
- Hot Cross Buns
- Go on an Easter Egg Hunt.
- Make Coloured Eggs.
If you think hollow eggs will be too fragile for your child to paint, let them decorate hard boiled ones instead. You could always use them as a part of an Easter picnic later on.
- Have a Hot Cross Bun Breakfast.
- Attend an Easter Play
I had to share this. I thought it was interesting to find out the origins of Easter, as pretty much all of our "Christian" celebrations have a basis in pagan celebration. Hope everyone has a great Easter!