Easter is right around the corner, and for most part, that means family togetherness, colored eggs and chocolate bunnies. For others, it means calling off the self-imposed impediments of Lent.
Easter is celebrated in several different ways in dozens of countries around the world. But where did it start? Who named it Easter? And who got the bunny involved?
Read on to find out the answers to those important questions and more!
1. Easter is a celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. OK, you probably did know that one. Easter is two days after Good Friday, the Christian holiday commemorating Jesus’ crucifixion. Three days later, he is said to have resurrected. The early Christians threw a party, which today is known as Easter.
Easter also marks the end of Lent, the 40-day period of fasting (or, for some, giving up chocolate, which makes those chocolate bunnies taste all the better).
An interesting side-note is that “Good Friday” is called “good” (despite marking a pretty bad incident, in my opinion) because the original translation from Latin meant “pious, holy or good.” I guess historians chose “good,” although in many parts of the world the day is still referred to as Holy Friday.
And speaking of names…
2. Easter is named for a pagan goddess. The early Christians called their celebration Paschal, from the Hebrew word for the Passover feast, pesach.
However, plenty of people were already celebrating a feast in the month of April called Eostur-monath, which means, literally, “month of Eostur.” Eostur, also spelled Eostre or Ostara, was the Anglo-Saxon goddess of fertility.
Coincidentally, she also had a bit to do with hares and eggs, but we’ll get to that shortly.
3. Easter is considered a “moveable feast.” This means that Easter doesn’t fall on a fixed date, unlike Jesus’ birthday, which is always celebrated on December 25 (commonly known as Christmas). And here’s why:
The First Council of Nicaea, who were important Christians way back in the day, used the Hebrew calendar to decide that Easter shall fall on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox.
Did you catch all that?
OK, I’ll explain it slowly. Take out your calendar. Find the first day of spring. Now find the next full moon. Now find the following Sunday. Does it say “Easter” on it? Well, it should. Simply put, Easter always has and always will fall between March 22 and April 25.
4. The Easter Bunny, while awesome, has nothing to do with Christianity. I’m sure everyone loved the “Hare Club For Men” episode of South Park as much as I did, but let’s clear that up right now.
The Easter Bunny originally hails from Germany, and for the same reason that Ostara, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of fertility, founded Easter’s namesake ... it’s springtime, flowers are blooming, and animals are making babies. And what animal makes babies faster than a rabbit?
Hence the term, “multiplying like rabbits.”
In the 18th century, German immigrants in the United States (Pennsylvania Dutch land, to be specific) introduced the idea of the Osterhas, a hare that lays eggs, as a symbol for the holiday. This kept in line with the egg-eating custom of the Catholic church as well as their Germanic roots of celebrating hares.
Hare became rabbit, rabbit became bunny, and bunny became a guy in a furry suit that takes pictures in the mall with your kids. Thusly, the Osterhas became the Easter Bunny, universally significant harbinger of candy.
5. Easter eggs, while awesome, actually have something to do with Christianity. Back in the early days of the Catholic church, there were all kinds of staunch rules for Lent, one of them being that you couldn’t eat eggs.
So, 40 days later, at the Paschal feast, people would eat eggs. A lot of eggs.
No one knows for sure when the egg-coloring custom began, but it’s theorized that it was done to symbolize the vibrant colors of spring and blooming flowers. A long time later, in the 19th century, some smart Ukrainian people began making eggs out of chocolate called Pysanka. And the whole candy thing just escalated from there.
Also noteworthy is that children would carry those dyed Easter eggs in baskets made to resemble birds’ nests… which later became the Easter basket.
Now that I’ve filled your heads with Easter facts, go fill your bellies with Easter candy, and have a happy Easter!