Yes, it’s the Christian celebration of Christ’s resurrection, but what’s with the egg-hiding rabbit and why does its date change every year?
While growing up in the American Midwest, I always looked forward to Easter. It meant lots of candy, new clothes, baskets of flowers and a big dinner featuring an otherwise rare treat—leg of lamb.
I imagined the holiday’s name had something to do with the compass direction, probably the Middle East where Jesus lived. And I knew the holiday was on a spring Sunday, but I always had to ask my parents, “When’s Easter this year?”
As it turns out, I wasn’t the only one confused. To this day, the leaders of the Orthodox and Catholic churches can’t agree on which Sunday Easter should fall. It has to do with the vernal equinox, the paschal full moon and complicated math that puts the holiday anywhere between March 22 and April 25. Because the churches use different calendars, their celebrations can be as much as five weeks apart.
As for the bunny, the eggs and the holiday’s geographic name, it turns out that these traditions have less to do with Christianity than they do with much older pagan rites. Ancient Greeks called the goddess of the dawn “Eos,” while Romans called her “Aurora.” In Anglo-Saxon times, she became Eoster, a goddess of spring.
It was said that Eoster would sometimes take the form of a rabbit—a common symbol of fertility. Colored eggs were often offered to her to promote fertility. The egg is also a pagan symbol of rebirth. It’s easy to see how early Christians incorporated Eoster mythology into celebrations of the Resurrection.
Easter can be a real challenge for dieters. Confectioners sell more candy for Easter than any other holiday save Halloween, and meat-packers deliver more ham than at any time other than Christmas. The Easter feasting ends 40 days of food denial called “Lent” and kicks off a festal 50 days of “Eastertide,” running up to another huge feast day, Pentecost Sunday in June.
I still look forward to Easter each year. The parades and community egg hunts are fun and entertaining to watch. Easter Sunday brings with it a feeling of lightness and peace. Spring is in the air and a period of renewal lies ahead.
So to all of our readers – A Very Happy Paleo Easter!
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