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How Spring was celebrated before the observances of Easter

Updated on April 14, 2014
eggs for easter celebration
eggs for easter celebration | Source
A  BILBY to represent Easter
A BILBY to represent Easter | Source

Can spring be far behind?

Easter, a time of reflection. According to the the Christian faith a time to remember the resurrection of Jesus Christ three days after his death by crucifixion.

Long before the Christian observances of Easter this lunar festival celebrated the arrival of the northern spring.

Cards portray fluffy yellow chicks, bob-tailed rabbits, lambs gambolling, fragile pastel blossom.

Rabbits symbolize fertility while eggs represent new life. Both have been a symbol of spring since ancient times.

Over the years many spring and Easter customs became intertwined.

Spring heralds lightness and hope after the darkness of winter. Poets wax lyrical: ‘In spring, a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.’

In the northern hemisphere the world is waking and warming up.

Down Under

Trouble is, it doesn’t work in the southern states of Australia. You’ve got to admit it’s different. Our lightness is turning into dark. Falling leaves. Flannelette PJs and thermals are frantically being bought.

Birds have nested and flown the coop. Sadly, ducks are ducking bullets and the only lambs and chicks you’ll see are sizzling on the barbeque.

Still, no one can accuse us of not getting into the spirit of things. Hot cross buns and chocolate eggs appeared in the stores on Boxing Day.


Bunny versus Bilby

There’s also push to have our very own symbol – an egg delivering bilby to replace the Easter bunny.

For the record, bilbies are desert dwelling marsupial omnivores; small, furry, cute and, sadly, an endangered species.

The bilby seems preferable because once introduced to the antipodes the rabbit took over with a vengeance causing untold damage to the continent.

The Easter Bunny though, is reportedly miffed. A bilby does not have the rabbit qualifications.


Superstitions

Superstitions concerning rabbits reach back to very early times. Born with their eyes open they are purported to ward off evil. Being such a prolific breeder their creativity heralds success and prosperity.

Carrying a rabbit’s foot around – preferably the left hind one - is still considered to be good luck. I bet the rabbit disagrees with this theory.


Easter Buns

Hot buns were always around at spring festivals. Only with the arrival of Christianity was the cross added.

One old adage suggests hot cross buns will cure stomach complaints, coughs and colds. They are also credited with the power to last indefinitely without going mouldy. My supermarket doesn’t seem to stock this brand.

Another theory - hang a hot cross bun in the house and you’ll be protected from fire and evil. It’s probably wise not to try this at home as an alternative to insurance.

More traditions

The ancestors certainly had intriguing habits. Consider the Easter proposal. A suitor sent his girlfriend a pair of gloves. If she wore them to church on Easter morning she’d accepted him as her future husband. Cold hands, cold heart, you might say.

Growing up in England a new coat was a must for Easter Sunday morning. This was followed by a visit to neighbours who would put coins in my pockets to symbolise prosperity.

In Cyprus, it’s customary for to light fires, huge ones made of scrap wood gathered by local children. Fires are also traditional in the Netherlands and North Germany.

Salzburg celebrates with a musical celebration honouring Mozart who was born there. Ireland and Britain begin the spring horse-racing season while Lapland offers the ultimate - reindeer racing.

And what about the ancient Scandinavian custom of children beating adults with birch twigs until they were given a ransom of eggs?

Around the world Spring/Easter is celebrated in style. In New York and London you’ll find the Easter Parade. The brilliant and zany display of new clothes and Easter bonnets are considered unequalled.

In Russia the eggs that fascinate were those designed by Peter Carl Faberge. The Easter eggs he crafted for the indulgent Czar and family are truly exquisite. Crafted in gold and silver, encrusted with precious stones

There is magic in such intricate pieces.

I’d really like to ask a favour of the Easter Bunny/bilby. I’m not into chocolate but I’d be really grateful if he’d leave me a decorated egg.

Just one small Faberge one. Well, it is Easter – a time of hope.

Last Words

As the dark nights deepen and autumn turns to winter, I’ll give the last word to the poets: ‘If winter comes, can spring be far behind?’

Good positive thinking, Shelley.

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    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Very interesting. Thank you. Sure beats my new wife's fascination with fake flowers

    • profile image

      Vickiw 4 years ago

      Hi travmaj, love your sense of humour. Well, what else can you do, when bunnies are a very sensitive topic in Aussie? There certainly are some strange little rituals around Easter time. I mean really, rabbits don't lay eggs do they? I agree with you about Faberge though. Wouldn't mind one of those! Great Hub.

    • Angie Jardine profile image

      Angie Jardine 4 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

      Third para, Maj … ‘rabbis (!) symbolize fertility’ ? Bet that has surprised the rabbi’s, chuck! Gave me a good giggle though … as did the rest of your hub.

      I used to get new sandals at Easter as a kid rather than a new coat … this Easter fur-lined boots would be a better option. Was the weather always better in the 1950’s?

      Happy Easter, m'dear!

    • travmaj profile image
      Author

      travmaj 4 years ago from australia

      Thanks Mhatter - always good to hear - hmmm - new wife and fake flowers, just right for spring/easter/whatever....Best....

    • travmaj profile image
      Author

      travmaj 4 years ago from australia

      Vickiw - thanks - I admit to confusion - spring/easter - but we celebrate in autumn. And how to connect bonnets, rabbits and now bilbies with the religious observance puzzles me. Thanks again, good to hear from you...

    • travmaj profile image
      Author

      travmaj 4 years ago from australia

      Angie, whoops - incredible what one missed letter can achieve. Thanks for that. Made me laugh though, what a statement. The weather was always perfect in the 1950s - in my memory anyway - Happy easter to you and thanks again.

    • wetnosedogs profile image

      wetnosedogs 4 years ago from Alabama

      Hope you get your egg, but if you get chocolate, think of me, I love chocolate.

      Interesting Easter traditions all around.

    • profile image

      Valleypoet 4 years ago

      Just like your Valentine's hub, a wealth of interesting information about another significant time of year. We might need to keep hold of as many traditions as we possibly can, just to remind us of what time of year it is meant to be...looking out of my window there are snow drifts...the temperature is struggling to get above freezing...and next week is Easter!!?

      It's always sad to hear that a species in endangered...if adopting a Bilby as a symbol of Easter goes anyway to protecting them from extinction then that can't be a bad thing....Thank you for another interesting and educational read...voted all the way across:-))

    • travmaj profile image
      Author

      travmaj 4 years ago from australia

      wetndogs - hello and thank you - appreciate you stopping by. I'm sure the eggs will be chocolate - hope you receive some also. Best for easter to you and the dogs and cats -

    • travmaj profile image
      Author

      travmaj 4 years ago from australia

      Hello Valley - thank you once again -

      re - the Bilby - should have mentioned that one chocolate manufacturer does donate a percentage of the takings to Save the Bilby. so the connection with easter is worthwhile if confusing. Interesting how traditions change - considering the weather pattern there I should be saying 'How white was my Valley.' Thanks for the vote - hope you are well and keeping warm.

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 4 years ago

      All I know all about Easter is three things:

      Jesus, a bunny rabbit and the wonderful memories of my dear mum and dad at this time of year.

      So thank you for educating and enlightening me (as you always do) about other cultural traditions during this holiday season.

      In closing , happy Easter to you , however you choose to celebrate or observe it , and thank you for the privilege and delight in knowing you as a hub friend and esteemed collegue too.

      Sending you warm wishes and good energy to you from Colin and his cats at lake erie time ontario canada 5:17pm

    • travmaj profile image
      Author

      travmaj 4 years ago from australia

      Hi to Colin and cats - Happy Easter to you all. Perhaps our memories are the best easter gift we can have - interesting though how traditions evolve- best wishes from down under - 8-43am. Happy Easter.

    • profile image

      ignugent17 4 years ago

      This is an interesting hub. I enjoyed reading about the history and traditions of easter rabbits and buns. Made me smile when I read about proposals.

      Have a great day! :-)

      Voted up and interesting.

    • travmaj profile image
      Author

      travmaj 4 years ago from australia

      ignugent - Hi - so glad you visited - thank you for your comments and the votes. It was definitely an Autumn Easter down here - nice to know you are swinging out of the snow (almost!) and Spring is well - springing!.

    • kidscrafts profile image

      kidscrafts 4 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      Living down under and having lived in England, it must feel strange to celebrate Christmas when it's the summer and Easter in the Fall but I suppose you get use to it!

      Do you know that in Belgium and France it's not the bunnies who bring the chocolate eggs but the bells from Rome! So at Easter in Belgium it's quite common to receive a chocolate bell for Easter! Anyway...whatever the shape...chocolate is always good :-)

      Thank you for your great hub and nice pictures!

    • travmaj profile image
      Author

      travmaj 4 years ago from australia

      kidscraft - You're right, it's still strange to me having our celebrations in different seasons. You do get used to it but I still miss the 'original way.' Traditions really are intriguing - they grow and evolve wherever we are in the world. Enjoyed the info re France/Belgium. Yes, chocolate is good whatever the season

    • profile image

      Alison Reynolds 4 years ago

      Loved this post. Had never really thought about Easter traditions.

      Do bilbys breed like rabbits too?

      Also, is that where the expression cold hands, cold heart came from do you think?

      All the best!

    • travmaj profile image
      Author

      travmaj 4 years ago from australia

      Hi alison - so glad you stopped by and had a late Easter moment with me - I'm intrigued by traditions too, fascinating how they evolve.

      I honestly don't know about that expression - will look it up and let you know.

      Thanks again - best wishes -

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      What a lovely hub. It is not only interesting, but your writing eloquently expresses the many facts that you include. I do sometimes think of the people living in the Southern hemisphere, especially when we are all iced over. I think of how lucky you are then, but sometimes I fail to remember that when we are suffering 100 degree weather, you are turning up the heat.

      Sometimes we fail to remember that Christians don’t have a monopoly on spring. Our forefathers and foremothers had their own celebrations that have been “borrowed” for Easter celebrations. In the South USA where I live, a new dress was a must for Easter. The weather was usually moderate enough for a light sweater. The last couple of years we were wearing coats.

      Love your photo of the bilby, how darling he is. Maybe the Easter bilby will bring you a Faberge egg someday. Voted up+++

    • travmaj profile image
      Author

      travmaj 3 years ago from australia

      MizB - I grew up in the UK and although I've been in Australia for years I still find myself wondering about Christmas tinsel shimmering in bright sunshine. And as I note Easter definitely isn't spring here.

      Good to hear from you...

    • joedolphin88 profile image

      Joe 3 years ago from north miami FL

      Really interesting, we forget that their was a time before Easter.

    • travmaj profile image
      Author

      travmaj 3 years ago from australia

      Joedolphin, thanks so much, good to have your comment. Cheers

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