Sunday, April 12, 2009
Today, with all its joyous customs, Easter is indeed a major popular festival across the United States.
A festival that has become more of secular in spirit, though it has religious background.
However, this was not the case all along the history of United States.
Easter did not enjoy the status of a popular festival among the early settlers in America. Because most of them were Puritans or members of Protestant Churches who had little use for the ceremonies of any religious festivals. Even the Puritans in Massachusetts tried their best to play down the celebration of Easter as far as possible. While various rites are said to be associated with the celebration of Easter, most of them have come as part of the ancient spring rites in the Northern hemisphere.
Not until the period of the Civil War did the message and meaning of Easter begin to be expressed as it had been in Europe. It was the initiative of the Presbyterians. The scars of death and destruction which led people back to the Easter season. They found the story of resurrection as a great source of inspiration and renewed hope.
Since then, of course, its joyous customs delight children and adults alike.
The Origin of the Easter Bunny & Colored Easter Eggs
Just as Santa Claus represents Christmas, a hopping life-size bunny with a basket full of colorful eggs is the quintessential image of Easter.
The original Easter bunny was probably associated with the Pagan equinox festival that predated Easter. The Saxons devoted the month of April to celebrating their goddess of spring and fertility, who was, not coincidentally, named Eastre. Eastre's sacred animal was the hare - not surprising since the rabbit is one of the most common symbols of fertility and rebirth.
The colored eggs carried by today's Easter bunnies have another, even more ancient origin. Eggs have long been associated with fertility and springtime festivals - for so long, in fact, that the precise roots of the association are unknown. Ancient Romans and Greeks utilized eggs in festivals celebrating resurrected gods. The egg also featured prominently in the Jewish rituals of Passover - and still today the roasted egg has prominence on the seder table as an essential symbol of springtime and rebirth.
Scholars believe that the pairing of the hare and the egg together in Easter may also have Pagan roots. During springtime, when days and nights were equal length, the hare was identified with the moon goddess and the egg with the sun god. Pairing the two together offered a kind of ying and yang to spring equinox celebrations.
The next historical entry under Bunny & Egg is found fifteen hundred years later in Germany. There, children would eagerly await the arrival of the Oschter Haws, a rabbit who delighted children on Easter morning by laying colored eggs in nests. This was also the first known time that the rabbit and egg were iconoclastically linked together.
The German tradition of the Oschter Haws migrated to America in the 1800s, likely accompanying German immigrants, many of whom settled in Pennsylvania. Over the past 200 years, the Oschter Haws or Easter Bunny has become the most commercially recognized symbol of Easter.
Today American children squeal with delight when they see the bunny-whether he's headlining their neighborhood Easter egg hunt or greeting visitors at the local mall. The Easter bunny and his ubiquitous basket of eggs has surely become the most adored and recognized symbol of the Easter season.