Easter rabbits and eggs

As Easter approaches many of us chocoholics will be counting down the days until the Easter bunny makes its usual Easter Morning chocolate egg delivery but how did a serious Christian festival become associated with rabbits and eggs?

Easter rabbits and eggs

For Christians this is a special time of year celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and this is usually seen as the foundation of the Christian faith. Oddly enough, the name Easter is not Christian at all but refers to the Old English word Eostur-monath or Eostre’s month which was named after the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre.  Early Christians had a pragmatic approach to paganism and took popular pagan festivals and gave them a Christian slant making it easier to win converts. This strategy seems to have worked both ways as neither the bunnies nor eggs were originally connected to Christianity.

In point of fact the bunnies were not even rabbits, they were hares which were sacred to Eostre and the exchange of brightly decorated eggs far precedes Christianity. The tradition of egg decorating has largely been replaced by the giving and receiving of chocolate eggs in the UK and US but in central and Eastern Europe real eggs are still decorated to celebrate Eastertide.

In Scotland, Northern Ireland and the North of England real eggs are sent rolling down steep hillsides as part of the Easter celebrations. In the Czech Republic and Slovakia

Easter is not so chocolate sweet, especially if you are female, as on Easter Morning men spank women with a special handmade whip called a pomlázka (in Czech) or korbáč (in Slovak). The pomlázka/korbáč is made of eight, twelve or even twenty-four willow rods and is usually from half a meter to two meters long and decorated with coloured ribbons at the end. The spanking is not painful or intended to do any harm!

A legend says that women should be spanked with this implement in order to keep their health and beauty during the whole next year. The woman then pays the man for her spanking with a small amount of money or a coloured egg. Not that the guys get it all their own way, in some places the following day the women can pour a bucket of cold water on any man they meet! So Slavic men no doubt take care their previous day’s activities have not been too onerous on their women folk for fear of an unpleasantly chilly shower the following day.

Scandinavian traditions also mix ancient pagan and Christian rites  In Finland, Sweden and Denmark, as well as painting eggs small children dressed as witches collecting candy door-to-door, in exchange for decorated pussy willows. Brightly coloured feathers and little decorations are also attached to birch branches in a vase. One of the loveliest Easter traditions occurs in Bermuda where folks spend the build-up to Easter making kites. The kites are then flown at Easter to symbolise Christ’s ascent to heaven.

Whatever you are doing this Easter have fun but take care not to over indulge in the chocs or you might find yourself paying the penalty for your pleasure at the gym.

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Post Author: Patrick Arundell

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