Allison-Antrim Museum 

                                     Greencastle, PA

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 April 2001 - Special Exhibit

From the collections of
David W. Thomas
Fairfield, Pennsylvania
{Historic Fairfield Inn}

Vintage milk glass Easter eggs, "Rabbit Ware", and post cards,.

Additional postcards from the collection of Shirley Baker

 

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.

 

"Rabbit Ware

A category of transfer-with-cut-sponge tableware. It has been suggested the origin of these animals on tableware may be traced to the stories of American author Joel Chandler Harris (1840 - 1904) who made the character Bre'r Rabbit famous in his Uncle Remus stories. Thought to have been made especially for the children's market, rabbit ware is difficult and costly to obtain today.

 

 

"Milk Glass Eggs

About the early 1800's the custom of sending Easter and Christmas cards accompanied by a keepsake came into style. This practice evidently caught on because glass companies, through the end of the 19th century, made a large variety of Easter novelties, especially in milk glass with many of the pieces being the hollow blown glass egg.

 

 

 

 

These popular Easter gifts were made in various sizes - chicken, goose, and ostrich. Some of the eggs were just painted while others were embossed and painted. Although most of the eggs did not have a flat bottom, some did, so that they would sit on a shelf.

 

 

 

 

 

The Easter egg roll is a popular mode of celebrating Easter today. The most significant egg roll is done on the lawns of the Whiter House. This popular concept began in the 1800's.

 

 

 The significance of `rolling' eggs on Easter Sunday remains the same everywhere. It perhaps recalls the descent of the "Angel of the Lord' from heaven who rolled back the stone from the door of the tomb of Christ. The Romans celebrated the Easter season by running races on an oval track and the prize - eggs. Today many families urge the Easter Bunny to hide eggs for the children to hunt - this can also be a community activity.

 

Please note how the family 
marked the date on their egg 
each year they displayed it!

Even the date of Easter is symbolic to the rite of spring. Its place on the calendar was not actually fixed to the Sunday after the first full moon of the spring equinox until 325A.D. Roman Emperor Constantine established the date. The date of Easter is based upon the lunar calendar, as were many of the early celebrations, which were based on equinoxes, solstices or lunar cycles.
We can also note that Emperor Constantine was also instrumental in establishing what today we call the Easter parade ...the wearing of new clothes. He asked his citizens to wear their best clothing to observe or honor the Holy Day.

Today, the gift of an egg does not carry the deep symbolic meaning it once had, and few people realize that they are taking part in a ritual that goes back thousands of years. 

Yet the giving of the Easter egg remains a beautiful antique gesture, to be renewed every year when the sun rises again on a new spring.

Whatever your belief, 
Easter and its legends and symbols are cherished throughout the world.

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