The Origin of Easter. And Peter the Apostle Rabbit.

Easter. The Pagan Holiday…

People have noted the oncoming of Easter, which is a holiday I’ve never really cared for. I don’t dig chocolate like most people and although the occasional Peep does satisfy me, sweet-tooth based holidays are generally a drag in my mind. Halloween is a totally different thing, and for me the goal was never about getting candy, which I’d just chuck out or give to others, but about dressing up as a ghoul. Maybe if we could dress up as witches and werewolves and french maids on Easter, I’d find it more enticing. As it stands, my only real memories of Easter were getting peed on by my great grandmother’s dog while looking for eggs in the yard in my pink ruffled dress, and rolling my eyes at the concept of the Easter Bunny. If he was so magical, why didn’t he know I didn’t like candy and bring me pickles and raw potatoes, then? (If you’ve never eaten a raw potato, I can only tell you that 5-year-old Chrissi would have thought you insane. I ate them any chance I could get. Because I was “special” like that.) So I dug up a little back-info on Easter, and was not really surprised at all at what I found. Easter is just another Pagan holiday converted for Christianity’s sake. I mean, don’t get me wrong, Christians had reason for a holiday and all, what with that rising from the dead business, but the traditions are far older than that, and make a little more sense. Because, it turns out that Eggs Benedict WASN’T actually Jesus’ favorite meal so that thousands of years later people would send their kids into the yard looking for Jesus’ breakfast special. Jesus DIDN’T have 12 bunny rabbits that followed him everywhere. Those were, in fact, apostles. Now why Peter Rabbit is called that, I don’t know. I would guess he could just as easily be Judas Rabbit. But that could be weird. Maybe if they hadn’t been putting carrots just out of Peter’s reach, he wouldn’t have denied Jesus. So yeah. That’s probably how the Peter Rabbit thing came about. Crazy Peter the Apostle and his love of carrots.

Anyway, here’s the lowdown on how these random traditions found their way into the modern Easter. I often wonder, “Didn’t Christians come up with ANYTHING original for a holiday activity?” But then I guess Lent is kind of original. Pagans probably had no use for stopping drinking beer for a month.

The egg was a symbol of the rebirth of the earth in Pagan celebrations of spring and was adopted by early Christians as a symbol of the resurection of Jesus.

The pre-Christian Saxons had a spring goddess called Eostre, whose feast was held on the Vernal Equinox, around 21 March. Her animal was the spring hare. Some believe that Ēostre was associated with eggs and hares, and the rebirth of the land in spring was symbolized by the egg.

Other theories such as Jakob Grimm’s in the 18th century believe in a pagan connection to Easter eggs via a putatively Germanic goddess called Ostara.

The Easter Bunny as an Easter symbol seems to have its origins in Alsace and southwestern Germany, where it was first mentioned in German writings in the 1600s. The first edible Easter Bunnies were made in Germany during the early 1800s and were made of pastry and sugar.

Eggs, like rabbits and hares, are fertility symbols of extreme antiquity. Since birds lay eggs and rabbits and hares give birth to large litters in the early spring, these became symbols of the rising fertility of the earth at the Vernal Equinox.

The saying “mad as a March hare” refers to the wild caperings of hares as the males fight over the females in the early spring, then attempt to mate with them. Since the females often rebuff the males’ advances before finally submitting, the mating behavior often looks like a crazy dance; these fights led early observers to believe that the advent of spring made the hares “mad.”

(Sorry. That last one was just for me.)

So happy Easter. May Peter the Apostle Rabbit bring you many carrots. And not deny you and all that.


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