Do you celebrate Easter either in a religious way by going to church or in a fun way by having an Easter egg hunt? Did you ever wonder where the tradition of the Easter bunny bringing eggs came from? So often our celebrations are a mix of the religious and the traditional. We may not stop to wonder where the elements of our celebration came from. I’ve heard Christians say they resent that pagans are always trying to steal their holidays – not knowing that Christian holidays are often adaptations of much more ancient rituals.
In the case of Easter, parts of the holiday are built on older traditions and stories. We believe that the word Easter comes from the Germanic goddess of spring Eostre. In her book Goddesses for Everyday, Julie Loar tells us that this holiday is “the only feast day in the Christian calendar that is still tied to the moon.” Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon – after the spring equinox.
As the goddess of renewal and new beginnings, Eostre brings the spring each year. Julie recounts the story that led to the Easter Bunny tradition in this way:
One year the goddess was late, and a little girl found a bird near death from the cold. The child turned to Eostre for help. In response a rainbow bridge appeared and Eostre came, clothed in her red robe of vibrant sunlight, melting the snows. Because the creature was wounded beyond repair, Easter changed it into a snow hare, who then brought gifts of rainbow eggs.
Many ancient world religions and some current ones have celebrations near the spring equinox dedicated to fertility and renewal of life. What does your spring ritual look like? For me, it feels like awakening after a long sleep to see life with new clarity and new joy.