Easter and the History of the Spring Equinox Holiday


The holiday of Easter runs parallel to the Spring Equinox. They occur at the same time of year and have a lot in common. Different cultures, throughout the years, have celebrated one of the two days of the year in different ways and in different manners. From Greece to Italy, the Americas, North Western Europe and Israel, the holidays are celebrated in their own way. Cultures like Israel, Greece, Italy, and different people in North Western Europe, as well as, North, Central, and South America celebrate the Spring Equinox, Easter, or Passover in different ways, and have done so throughout the centuries.

The Italian culture eats ricotta pie and pizza gainer for desert while the Greek culture celebrates Easter by cooking lamb seasoned with oil and garlic, not mint jelly as commonly believed. Many other cultures celebrate the special occasion cooking different foods. Fox News states that members of the Greek culture have been cooking barbecued lamb with spicy pomegranate salsa since ancient times. Hawaiians usually grill ham. Buttermilk fried chicken is more common in the Southeastern United States while many Italian’s cook spring vegetable frittatas. The Greeks cook tsoureki, which is an Easter Bread, on the Spring Equinox holiday.

However, many American families enjoy painting eggs and having the children hunt for them. History.com states the origins of several Easter traditions, many of which, have existed for centuries. German immigrants brought the symbol of the Easter bunny, who laid eggs, with them to their adopted new country, during the 1700s, when they resettled in Pennsylvania. The original German name of the Easter bunny was “Osterhase,” or “Oschter Haws.”

The children in Pennsylvania made nests for the Easter bunny to lay colorful eggs. In the following years, the custom spread across the rest of the country and among many different cultures and ethnicities. The nests were replaced by baskets for chocolate and candy that were received the next morning. The children in the new world would leave carrots for the Easter bunny the night before.

Although Easter is a Christian celebration, eggs were originally a pagan custom. They are an ancient symbol of new life. Previously, they were used as a symbol in an ancient pagan spring festival. However, the Christian religion uses eggs to symbolize the resurrection of their deity. Decorating eggs during the holiday dates back to the 13th Century. One theory, to explain the egg as a symbol in Christianity, is that it was once forbidden to eat eggs during lent. To celebrate the end of the religious season of lent, eggs would be decorated and then eaten after the fasting and before the Spring Equinox holiday.

Egg rolling is a tradition at the White House. The event is annually held on the Monday after the special day and involves children pushing decorated hard-boiled eggs across the lawn of the White House. The celebration began in 1878, during the Rutherford B. Hayes administration.

TheHolidaySpot claims that the tradition of the Easter egg spread all across the world. It has been seen in Ancient India, Iran, Finland, Latvia, Phoenicia, and the West Coast of South America, Central America, and Greece. An old Latin proverb states, “All life comes from an egg.”

Ancient civilizations believed that an egg was an emblem of life, as well as, where all living beings were born from, which is the key to modern day biology. The site, TheHolidaySpot, also declares, there is no evidence it was an ancient pagan ritual. Rather, Jakob Grimm created his own goddess, named Ostara, in the 18th Century, and then the pagan connection was made.

During Passover, the custom of dipping a hard-boiled egg in salt water symbolized new life. The ancient Persians painted eggs for Nowrooz, which was their New Year celebration, that fell on the Spring Equinox. The tradition has continued throughout the generations. The Spring Equinox celebration spans through many different cultures and has evolved over the centuries.

By John A. Federico
Edited by Jeanette Smith & Cathy Milne


Fox News: 12 Easter dinner dishes for a super Sunday
TheHolidaySpot: The Easter Egg

Top Image Courtesy of lucymay6’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Featured Image Courtesy of maF04’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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