Easter has myths and legends behind it, just like any other holiday. And be honest, haven’t you ever wonder how a rabbit delivering colored eggs in a basket, along with candy, has much to do with Jesus Christ rising from the dead? Or even with the Jewish Passover, which is celebrated at this time too.
To start, we celebrated the rites of Spring at this time of year, with the perfect balance of light and darkness, called the Vernal Equinox. Vernal Equinox occurred March 20th this year for the Northern Hemisphere. For the Southern Hemisphere, this is the moment of the autumnal equinox.
Rituals and traditions surrounded the coming of spring centuries ago, as early peoples celebrated that their food supplies would soon be restored. The date is significant in Christianity because Easter always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. It is also probably no coincidence that early Egyptians built the Great Sphinx so that it points directly toward the rising Sun on the day of the vernal equinox. The first day of spring also marked the beginning of Nowruz, the Persian New Year. This celebration lasted thirteen days, rooted in the 3,000-year-old tradition of Zorastrianism. With the Greeks, there was the sacrificing of virgins and the worship of fertility gods and goddesses including Pan, Isis, Demeter, and Ceres. The goat god Pan, representing the force of life, is god of the forest and of shepherds, and was said to grant new life on earth every spring.
The Easter Bunny evolved from a mythic German goddess named Ostara, (Oestre / Eastre), the Germanic Goddess of Springtime. In ancient Anglo-Saxon myth, Ostara is the personification of the rising sun. In that capacity she is associated with the spring and is and is considered to be a fertility goddess. She is the friend of all children and to amuse then she changed her pet bird into a rabbit. This rabbit brought forth brightly colored eggs, which the goddess gave to the children as gifts. Ostara is identical to the Greek Eos and the Roman Aurora. Recent research suggests that the Ostara myth was potentially invented during a mischievous moment by the Venerable Bede. This well-known monk mentioned her in connection with the pagan festival Eosturmonath in a book written in 750 A.D. -- but extensive research has failed to find a trace of her prior to that. Imagine: a famous monk makes up a weird story about a goddess who never existed - who turns a bird into a rabbit that lays colored eggs -- and it morphs into a mega-watt holiday celebrated the modern world over.
In Northwest European folklore the "Easter Bunny" indeed is a hare, not a rabbit.The Easter bunny or hare was introduced to American folklore by the German settlers who arrived in the Pennsylvania Dutch country during the 1700s. The arrival of the "Oschter Haws" was considered "childhood's greatest pleasure" next to a visit from Christ-Kindel on Christmas Eve. The children believed that if they were good the "Oschter Haws" would lay a nest of colored eggs. The children would build their nest in a secluded place in the home, the barn or the garden. Boys would use their caps and girls their bonnets to make the nests. The use of elaborate Easter baskets came later as the tradition of the Easter bunny spread through out the country.
Bringing Easter eggs seems to have its origins in Alsace and the Upper Rhineland, both then in the Holy Roman Empire, and southwestern Germany, where the practice was first recorded in a German publication in the 1500s
Long, long ago, when Jesus walked upon the earth, the dogwood tree was tall and proud. Its trunk was as large around as an oak tree and its wood was hard and strong.Near the city of Jerusalem grew an especially lovely dogwood tree. When Jesus was to be crucified, the Roman soldiers looked at the tree and decided it would be just the right kind of wood for a cross. They cut down the tree and made a cross for Jesus.But the dogwood tree was very sad and ashamed to be put to such a terrible use. Jesus knew the tree was very unhappy and he felt sorry for it. He promised the dogwood that it would never again grow large enough to be used as a cross. And then, to give the world a reminder of the tree's history, Jesus gave it a very special blossom. This blossom would be a sign of Jesus' death. That is why the dogwood's four white petals form the shape of a cross. On the outer edge of each petal there is a dark red stain, as a reminder that Jesus was offered on the cross for forgiveness of sins. And in the center of each bloom is a tiny crown of thorns.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, there were many beautiful flowers, but the loveliest of all was the pure white lily. The lily knew it was very beautiful, and it proudly lifted its head to show itself to anyone who happened to pass by the garden. On the night before he was crucified, Jesus came into the quiet Garden of Gethsemane to pray. As he prayed and wept there, the flowers of the garden bowed their heads in pity and sorrow too. But the proud lily would not bow its lovely white head. The next day, the lily discovered that Jesus was going to be crucified. The flower felt so miserable about how it had acted in the garden that it bowed its head in shame. To honor the Lord Jesus and to show its sorrow, the lily has grown with a down-turned blossom ever since that first Good Friday of long, long ago.
These are picked at Easter in England and Russia. Then people would tap each other on the shoulders with a branch of the pussy willow for good luck.
And if you can’t think of any creepy story connected to Easter, there’s Black Annis. In England, she’s a blue-faced hag who lives in a cave in the Dane Hills, Leicestershire. The cave, called "Black Annis' Bower Close" was dug out of the rock with her own nails. She hides in front of it is a great oak and leaps out to catch and devour stray children and lambs. Every year on Easter Monday, it was customary to hold a drag hunt from her cave to the Mayor's house. The bait was a dead cat drenched in aniseed.
Whether you celebrate it for its Christian designation or for celebration of Spring, or even color eggs and eat a chocolate bunny traditionally, Easter has its myths and legends like the other holidays--some are sweet and some are scary. It's all about enjoying the day with family and friends, and isn't that what any holiday should really be all about?