|In the Christian faith Easter is celebrated to commemorate the Resurrection of Christ.
Thus it is the most sacred of all holy days. Unknown to most people, it is also the name
of an ancient Saxon festival, Eastre. Eastre is the pagan goddess of spring and offspring.
How this pagan festival came to be supplanted by a solemn Christian holiday attests to the
ingenuity of second century Christian missionaries.
These missionaries traveled among
the Teutonic tribes north of Rome. Whenever possible, they transformed local pagan customs
to harmonize with Christian doctrine. On a practical basis, this prevented local converts
from being persecuted by the pagan traditionalists. Since the Eastre festival to celebrate
spring coincided with the time of the Christian observance of the resurrection of Christ,
this crossover was achieved smoothly. Some doubt remained as to the exact day of the
That was put to rest by the Emperor Constantine. In AD 325, the Emperor convened a
council and it was decreed: Easter would be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first
full moon after the vernal equinox. Easter is therefore bound never to fall before March
22 or after April 25.
Now you know why Easter changes around from year to year. But what about the Easter bunny and those eggs?
Well, back to the Saxons for the Easter bunny. They worshipped the goddess Eastre by
the earthly symbol of a rabbit or "hare" as rabbits were known. Eventually the
custom of the Easter bunny was brought to America by the Germans.
Chocolate and candy eggs have become popular in this century,
but exchanging of eggs in the springtime is an ancient custom. Egyptians buried eggs in
their tombs. The Greeks placed eggs on their tombs. A Roman proverb states, "All life
comes from an egg". In most cultures, the egg signifies birth and resurrection. So
when the church began to celebrate the Resurrection in the second century, the egg was a
popular symbol. In those days, wealthy people covered gift eggs in gold leaf, while
peasants dyed theirs with flowers and herbs.