Egg-Specting the Unexpected: A Look at Easter’s Past

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It’s Easter Sunday and, per usual, I am choosing violence. Because it’s all I know.

I have never particularly enjoyed or understood Easter and, like many, I’ve never given it much thought beyond it’s a day of the year. Never the same date each year because who doesn’t love a holiday that can’t make up it’s fucking mind.

Regardless, Easter is a beloved holiday celebrated by millions of people around the world (many of whom just need an excuse to drink while around their families). While many people associate Easter with Christianity and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the holiday actually has deep roots in pre-Christian pagan celebrations. If you pay close enough attention, you’ll see that many of the traditions we associate with Easter today have been “borrowed” (*cough* STOLEN *cough*) from other cultures and religions.

Let’s start with the Easter Bunny. Believe it or not, the Easter Bunny actually has roots in pre-Christian pagan celebrations. In ancient times, rabbits were seen as symbols of fertility and new life, which made them a natural fit for springtime festivities. In fact, the Feast of Eostre, a pagan celebration of the spring equinox, is thought to have given rise to the Christian celebration of Easter.

Fast forward a few centuries to Germany in the 1700s, and we start to see the emergence of the modern Easter Bunny as we know it today. According to legend, the Easter Bunny would visit children while they slept, laying colored eggs in their nests as a sign of good luck and prosperity. It wasn’t until German immigrants brought this tradition to America in the 1800s that the Easter Bunny really took off, and he’s been a staple of the holiday ever since.

But what about Easter Egg Hunts? How did we go from hiding eggs in children’s nests to staging elaborate egg hunts in our backyards? Well, the origins of the Easter Egg Hunt are a bit murkier, but one theory suggests that it too has pagan roots. In ancient times, eggs were seen as a symbol of rebirth and renewal, making them a fitting addition to springtime celebrations. It’s also possible that the tradition of egg hunts may have been inspired by the game of “egg rolling,” which was popular in Europe during the Middle Ages. In this game, participants would roll eggs down hills or slopes, with the winner being the person whose egg traveled the farthest.

Even the tradition of eating hot cross buns on Good Friday has pagan roots. In ancient times, the cross was a symbol of the sun, and the buns were originally baked to honor the goddess Eostre. When Christianity became the dominant religion in Europe, the buns were given a new meaning as a symbol of the crucifixion of Jesus.

As previously mentioned, another weird aspect of Easter is that it falls on a different date each year. This can be a bit annoying, but the reason for this is actually tied to the spring equinox, which I mentioned earlier. In Christianity, Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon that occurs on or after the vernal equinox, which is around March 20th each year.

The calculation of the date for Easter has been standardized since the Council of Nicaea, which was a historic gathering of Christian bishops in 325 CE. The council was convened by the Roman Emperor Constantine and aimed to resolve disagreements among Christian leaders about key religious practices, including the date of Easter. The council established a method for calculating the date of Easter that has been used by Christian churches ever since.

So, if you pay close attention, you’ll see that many of the traditions we associate with Easter (much like other “Christian traditions”) today have been influenced by other cultures and religions. Maybe later in the year I’ll treat y’all to my rant about Christmas.

Anyway, whether you celebrate Easter as a religious holiday, a secular holiday, or a little bit of both, I hope it’s a great day. Even if you’re just sitting in bed, still in your pajamas, sipping a mimosa, it’s what the baby Jesus would have wanted. 

So go forth and enjoy your chocolate bunnies, colorful eggs, and hot cross buns, and remember this as the day I forced you to learn something new.

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