Scholars believe Easter derived from Oestar or another
reference, Eostre - goddess of Spring and renewal. There is little written lore
available on Eostre, but the venerable Bede and Jacob Grimm both affirmed her
existence based on folklore and the traditional German Easter festival Ostarun.
According to legend, she is associated with Spring, as well
as with the sunrise. Related stories of Eostre say she saved a bird whose wings
were frozen from the harsh winter by turning it into a rabbit. This magical
rabbit could actually lay eggs. In legends associated with Eostre, she is nearly
always accompanied with a hare, so it would be easy to see the connection
between this myth and the story of the Easter Bunny.
Rabbits were symbols of fertility in ancient Egypt. Another
source states that the rabbit first mentioned as Easter Bunny with eggs came
from Germany in the late 1500's. In many sections of Germany, the belief was
that the Easter Bunny laid red eggs on Holy Thursday and multi-colored eggs the
night before Easter Sunday.
The egg is nature's perfect package. It is the universal
symbol of Easter celebrations throughout the world. As the egg has been the
symbol of creation, fertility and new-life it has been honored in many rites of
Spring by the Romans, Gauls, Chinese, Egyptians and Persians who have exchanged
decorated eggs at the spring equinox. Decorating of eggs has been historically
documented from the accounts of Edward I in the year 1290 - when expenditure of
18 pense was recorded for the purchase of 450 eggs to be gold-leafed and colored
for Easter gifts. Different cultures have developed their own style of
decorating Easter eggs ....the red dyed eggs of the Greeks to honor the blood of
Christ; to the beautiful pysanki eggs of the Ukraine. One custom refers to one
person knocking their egg against another's - the first to crack their egg shell
will have good luck.
Among other traditions of the season is the interesting one
of the Poles called switching day. This tradition is well over 800 years old and
usually was the peasant boys celebrating the end of Lent and eagerly enjoying
the lull in farm work. They would switch their sweethearts with red willow
switches; this tradition always done in fun with the girls returning to their
teasers and switching them on Easter Tuesday.