As we enter the time of the approaching Spring Equinox, another opportunity for reflection and introspection is presented. How about heading into the long weekend by delving into the origins of Easter celebrations?
For many a Christian, Easter celebrations are about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Dating back to biblical times, Easter commemorates the crucifixion of, descent as well as the resurrection of the son of God and Man, Jesus Christ. According to Christianity, Jesus had 12 disciples or followers with whom he shared most of his time and teachings. He was betrayed by one such disciple, Judas Iscariot, for money, which resulted in him being crucified by the Roman government. The charge brought against him was blasphemy for calling himself the Son of God and King of the Jews. What makes this special on the Christian calendar is the fact that Jesus arose and was seen among the people he spent time with while he was alive. Wherever his followers gathered in private, there he appeared with stigmatic wounds. Easter celebrates the fact that Jesus willingly died for the sins of all Christiandom and took these transgressions upon himself.
Some of our most beloved Easter traditions can be attributed to the Christian celebration.
Hot Cross Buns
As part of Easter weekend celebrations, hot cross buns were first served in the 12th century. According to the lore, they were first baked by an Anglican monk, Brother Thomas Rodcliffe, who marked them with a cross in honour of Good Friday. This idea was then solidified by Queen Elizabeth I of England who forbade the selling of hot crus buns, save for on Good Friday or at Christmas time. They have since become one of the most recognisable Easter symbols.
While the consumption of fish can be linked to Christianity, pickled fish is actually a uniquely South African tradition. Pickled fish is the tradition of preserving fish in a mixture of vinegar and curry spices. Legend has it that the fishermen of old chose to ring in Easter celebrations at home instead of going out to sea during the long weekend. Fish was thus pickled to keep it edible in the days before technology and fridges!
Teutonism or Germanic origins celebrate the Goddess Eostre or Ostara. Eostre is the Goddess of the dawn, light and fertility. According to t the writings of the 7th & 8th-century writer, scholar & monk, Bede, Jesus’ resurrection is also referred to as Ēosturmōnaþ, which is Old English for the “Month of Ēostre”, and is celebrated in April when feasts in honour of Eostre take place.
The Spring Equinox
For many cultures, Easter celebrations can be found in the celebration of The Spring Equinox. Many have attributed the fact that Easter is celebrated on a different day each year to the fact that The Spring Equinox is heralded by the plan of the equator passing through the centre of the sun, or when the centre of the visible sun is directly above the equator. Many Easter traditions can be traced back to the celebration of this time of year.
The symbol of an egg is one of rebirth and renewal and has been a part of Spring & Easter celebrations since time immemorial. It is said that the druids of old buried them in fields in order to invite abundance to the area. Of course, current day consumption of this symbol is of the chocolate variety, and we like it that way!
Have you ever heaved a heavy sigh at having to clean out your home around Easter time? Well, it’s all there in the name! During the celebration of the spring/vernal equinox, part of the festivities is decluttering and cleaning out one’s living space in order to renew the energy. Go on, roll up those sleeves and make elbow grease part of this year’s Easter celebrations.
Believe it or not, Easter bunnies were also seen as a symbol of rebirth and renewal. This belief started in the 1700s when it was said that German immigrants carried the Easter Bunny to Pennsylvania, America. Little German children made nests for the egg-laying Easter hare to lay colourful eggs which they would hunt on Easter.
If you have ever wondered why tourists flock to Stonehenge come Easter, you’re in luck. Stonehenge is symbolic of the two equinoxes and solstices which occur annually. The celebration of these four points is believed to have regenerative properties and is largely believed to be the time for rebirth and renewal. Sound familiar?
Easter Celebrations in Judaism are around The Passover. The feast of Pesach celebrates The Passover and is one of the most widely celebrated Jewish holidays. Pascha is also one of the Three Pilgrimage Festivals during which the entire Kingdom of Judah made the journey to the Temple of Jerusalem. This pilgrimage is currently still observed by Samaritan men. Seen as a spring festival, the festival of Pesach has connections to the offering of the “first fruits” of barely as barely was the first grain to ripen and be harvested in Israel. More than a seasonal or agricultural holiday, Pesach is also the celebration of the Hebrews’ escape from slavery in ancient Egypt. The celebration in Israel lasts for seven days and has always been entwined with the origins of Easter. The Passover also celebrates when, while shut n their homes for fear of the angel of death taking their children, the Jews of old smeared lamb’s blood on the door planes of their homes so that the angel of death would pass over them and instead smite their oppressors.
There you have it! A deep dive into the origins of Easter. Did you enjoy taking a trip down the rabbit hole? Pun intended!
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