It feels somehow special with Easter just around the corner: days are longer, spring flowers are popping up all around, and soon we will be able to experience a few days of holidays and relax. Giving it more thought, we discover that our predecessors have been celebrating the arrival of spring more than thousand years ago as well. Dressed with different names, pagan spring festivals mark our modern holiday of Easter. There is something unifying and universal in the idea of people celebrating the arrival of spring, or if you like, the arrival of new life, throughout the centuries.
Traces of pagan celebrations adopted by Christianity come to life during Easter. Take a look at the symbols associated with this Christian holiday. Bunnies, hot cross buns, the name of the holiday or even the time when it is observed, all this can be traced back to ancient cultures. The word 'Easter' is believed to derive from the Old English 'Ä’astre' or 'Ä’ostre', which is the name of the Anglo-Saxon goddess Ä’ostre. According to Venerable Bede, a monk who lived in the 8th century, the Anglo-Saxons used to hold ceremonies in honour of the goddess Ä’ostre in April, which later became replaced by Christian Easter holidays. Ä’ostre was a symbol of dawn, the goddess of fertility. She would be accompanied by rabbits or hares, hence the bunnies in the Christian tradition.Easter Sunday falls on the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox of March 21. The Anglo-Saxons are known to have been celebrating equinox and solstice. Interesting, how the date of the most important Christian holiday is calculated based on the phases of the moon, which in turn, were the basis of the Anglo-Saxon calendar.
Hot cross buns, sweet buns eaten traditionally on Good Friday in the UK
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, also have their origin in ancient history. Thanks to the Old Testament, we know that Israelites would bake cakes for their idols. The early Christian church tried to prohibit the cake-baking for Easter, only to later adopt it and bless it. Remember how we said that goddess Ä’ostre was a symbol of dawn? Some churches offer 'sunrise service' on Easter Sunday.What are your plans for the Easter holidays? Are you travelling anywhere? Pay attention during your travels to various Easter symbols, there may be fascinating histories behind them.
Has your family some special tradition for Easter? Do you know where it originates from? Perhaps there is more to it than you think. Enjoy your Easter holidays!