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Why Resurrection Sunday is called Easter and other incongruities

Christ and Easter
Christ and Easter
o schefeld

Have you  ever thought why Jesus Christ's resurrection day is called Easter? No one knows for certain, but the Venerable Bede, the 7th century historian of Britain, said that it came  from the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre who is associated with spring and fertility. As Christmas was moved supplant the pagan celebration of winter, so Easter was positioned to replace the pagan rite of spring.

The Easter bunny is also associated with those pagan rites. Eighteenth century Germans brought  "Oschter Haws" to America where the Pennsylvania Dutch made nests for him in their barns and gardens. In gratitude he laid colored eggs. Some kind of bunny who can lay eggs!

The German "Oschter Haws"produces red eggs on Maundy Thursday, the commemoration of the Last Supper of Jesus.This time is remembered with foot washing and the blessing of the oils.However, there are also other traditions. The German word "to mourn" (grun) is almost identical to the German word for green(grUn). So in Hungary, Austria and Germany, Maundy Thursday is GrUndonnerstag: a day to eat green vegetables such as spinach and salad. Passover is also celebrated with karpas ( a green vegetable, which is usually parsley) and bitter herbs. Men in old England used to shave their beards on Maundy Thursday as an indication of cleansing the body as  well as the soul in Easter preparations.

The Friday in Holy Week is Good Friday, which the Orthodox call Great Friday. Hot cross buns are a Christianized pagan tradition and  derive from the Eostre celebrations. A nineteenth century missionary in Bermuda had a problem  explaining the ascension of Jesus, so he made a kite with a picture of Jesus on it, and cut the string. Hence, the present day tradition of Good Friday kite flying there.

Lilies are another tradition that came from Bermuda. They grow from a bulb that is "buried" and "reborn" and remind us to think of the death and resurrection of Our Lord.

For  more information concerning the origins and traditons of various holdiays, examine the book Holiday Symbols (Omnigraphics, 1998), edited by Sue Thompson.


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