Do a Google search for Easter and you’ll find a plethora of colourful images featuring rabbits and eggs. You won’t easily find images of Jesus within the crucifixion or resurrection context. That’s not an editorial comment; it’s simply a fact. Regardless, it is interesting to chase the history of Easter from two points of view: the Christian perspective and the commercialized perspective.
As a holiday, Easter might seem confusing. Unlike Christmas, Easter shifts within the calendar from year to year based on the occurrence of the first, full, spring moon after March 20. The first Sunday after that is Easter.
Easter occurs the first Sunday after the first, full, spring moon
In 2017, that’s April 16 and some employers wrestle with the decision of whether the employee holiday occurs on the Good Friday before or Easter Monday after. Decisions, decisions.
Quebec companies found a better solution: they let their employees decide which day they prefer.
The history of Christianity documents Good Friday as the crucifixion of Christ and his resurrection occurring on the Sunday after. Christian scholars will tell you it is more important that Christmas. Why is Christ’s death more important than his birth in their terms? Because the resurrection affirms that he is the Son of God.
So, where did the rabbits and eggs come from?
Some say German literature in the early 1600s. Others claim that, many centuries before, the Anglo Saxon pagans dedicated April to Rheda, their goddess of fertility and offspring. The celebration was referred to as Eoastre. Later, in the third century AD, the Council of Nicea declared that Easter would occur on a Sunday between late March and later April. It is unclear as to whether the first spring moon was part of that proclamation.
But the greater wave of adoption to rabbits and eggs didn’t occur until the late 19th century and migrated to North America quite quickly. Many Christian families embrace both the religious meaning of Easter while planning Easter egg hunts for children. It is an interesting dichotomy.
One thing is certain. The Christian practice of Easter is a much longer ritual, beginning with Lent 40 days earlier. By the time Christians get to Good Friday, they have practiced fasting for 40 days. They are limited to one daily meal with the provision that meat and fish should not be included. The common practice will vary and, in practical terms, exceptions around these rules are granted to children and the elderly.
The image of the empty chamber where the body of Jesus was laid to rest is, in many ways, as compelling as the shell of a broken egg, both expressing the urgency of new life and new hope.
Whether you mark Easter with a ritual of faith or sprinkle women with perfume like the Hungarians do, the celebration of Easter is a bright light in our lives. As bright as the first moon in spring.
If you’re interested, follow these links to images of Easter. And Happy Easter!