Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Origins of Easter Traditions

So, not mommy related, but this is sort of a pet peeve of mine. I don't know why, but it bothers me when people don't realize how stolen the traditions of a holiday really are. ANY holiday. I should say that it is -NOT- my intent to offend anyone, just to inform.

For example: How many of you know why we color and hide eggs? Or why they're brought to us by a bunny?

Well, if you've ever wondered, here's your answer.

Before the onset of Christianity, the pagan pantheons of gods were widely accepted as the religion of the lands. Many were similar, in that they had gods that represented different aspects of life. Rebirth, Death, Luck, etc... They all had their own gods that you would pray to. The gods had different names, depending on what region you were from. The Romans, Greeks, Irish, Saxons, Egyptians, and more all had their own interpretations and names for the different gods, much as we have many different sects of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism today.

Oestre (later mistranslated in German to Easter) was the Saxon goddess of spring and renewal, rebirth and of course fertility. . Bringing in the end of winter, with the days brighter and growing longer after the vernal equinox, Ostara had a passion for new life. Her presence was felt in the flowering of plants and the birth of babies, both animal and human. The animal that represented Oestre was the rabbit-- known for it's rapid reproduction (tied to fertility and rebirth, obviously). Originally her pet bird, Oestre changed him into a hare, but left him with the ability to still lay eggs, in remembrance of his former life as a bird. He was also gifted the ability to be a fantastically fast runner.

Eggs are an obvious representation of fertility, and chicks are a very cute representation of new life or birth. Both eggs and the Oestre Rabbit were used in festivals to celebrate spring. Eggs were also used in fertility rituals in order to bring luck to women hoping to become pregnant. The eggs were commonly dyed and given as a wish for prosperity and abundance of the harvests for the new year.

When Christianity made it's first appearance, the shunning of the "Old Religion" and it's traditions began. In order to keep the rituals around, adults began hiding the eggs for the children to find. Candy-- a common gift in Easter baskets today was shaped in honor of the rabbits and eggs as a way to still honor the goddess Oestre.

As you can see, when Christianity took over as the popular belief, they had to find intricate ways to keep the beliefs of the older religions alive, and make it an easier transition for the new converts to support and understand. As blasphemous as it was, they did a very graceful job of combining both religions.

I hope that no matter what you celebrate this time of year, you have a fantastic day with friends and loved ones!

No comments:

Post a Comment