Celebrating the rebirth of Spring after the death of Winter?
When: Dates vary each year. March 31st 2013 (May 5th Orthodox), 20th April 2014 (Western and Orthodox)
Where: Christian Countries
Most people associate Easter Sunday with chocolate eggs, chicks and rabbits as well as it being the day according to Christian belief that Jesus is supposed to have risen from the dead. Either way it is a time associated with new beginnings and a celebration of springtime.
The word Easter is most likely derived from the name Eastre (or Eostre), the Saxon Goddess of Spring (and the dawn) who is often depicted with hares, (hares and rabbits being a symbol of fertility and spring). In Pagan times, spring fertility celebrations in her honour were held around the time of the Spring Equinox or during the month of April which was considered her month. This is probably the basis for the old German folklore where the Osterhas (Easter Hare) brings coloured eggs (again an ancient symbol of spring and fertility) for all the good children at Easter.
The giving of eggs actually goes back to the Egyptians, Romans and Ancient Greeks who all gave eggs as a symbol of rebirth and continuing life. Later this tradition was adopted by Christians as a symbol of the resurrection of Christ. It is said that Mary Magdalene gave an egg to the Roman Emperor Tiberius to tell him that Christ has risen. In some countries such as Greece, Poland and Bulgaria they dye eggs red (to represent the blood of Jesus) on Maundy Thursday and give them as gifts for health in the coming the coming year.
Many Pagan traditions are incorporated into Christian holidays like Christmas and Easter. When the Christian Church was first trying to convert the Pagans to Christianity, the Pagans were reluctant to give up their festivals as well as their gods, so the Christians incorporated some of the Pagan practices into the Christian festivals.
When is Easter?
Western Easter always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox and so varies between 22nd March and 25th April. Eastern and Orthodox Christianity bases its calculations on the Julian Calendar where there is a 13 day difference so Easter varies between 4th April and 8th May. There are further complexities and oddities in the calculations for Easter in both Western and Eastern Christianity. If you are interested then Wikipedia’s Easter entry explains it best.
Easter is an end to the deprivation of Lent (traditionally a time of fasting and being deprived of one’s favourite things), hence the abundance of chocolate and sweets!. Many people have a big family feast, often lamb is served. And most countries have their own version of some kind of sweet Easter bread or cake – English Hot Cross Buns and Simnel cake, Greek Tsourekis, Italian Pane di Pasqua… Try a fuzzy bunny cocktail of champagne and peach juice (or peach liqueur).
There are some great places to be at Easter. Visit Florence in Italy for Scoppio del Carro (explosion of the cart), or Vrontados on the Greek Island of Chios for Rouketopolemos (the Rocket Wars). Spend Holy week (Semana Santa) in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico or Seville, Spain. See individual link for relevant travel information.
Dates / venues may be subject to change or cancellation. Distances may be straight-line estimates. Please verify information before booking.
Enjoy your trip! And when you’re home we’d love you to come back and tell us all about it!