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Ostara - The Real Easter
Grass, beans, eggs, chicks, rabbits, and chocolate
For many years I have watched new parents try to explain to their young children what the Easter Bunny is and what it has to do with Jesus. All they know is that when they were kids, they woke up Easter morning to a basket full of jelly beans, chocolate bunnies, green plastic grass, hard boiled eggs, and marshmallow chicks. Then they were told to get up, dress nicely, go to church, and listen to a story about a man who was tortured, tried for a crime he didn't commit, crucified, and came back from the dead.
The tortured logic they've used to explain the transition of rabbits and eggs to the story of the crucifixion is the basis for a comedy sitcom. They can't explain it.
Fortunately, I can.
Easter is not a Christian holiday. It never was. What Easter actually is, is a celebration of the spring solstice derived from Germanic Paganism. It was named after the Germanic Goddess, Ēostre (also known as Austrō or Ostara). The goddess actually gets her roots from the Greek Mythology, Eos who was known as the "dawn bringer".
Ostara is celebrated on the first day of spring, normally March 20th. It is a celebration of renewal, the rebirth of the land from the death of winter, and, in Germanic myth, a celebration of Idunn, keeper of the apples of golden youth.
How do you celebrate the Spring Solstice?
The Symbols We Know
It has been said that Spring is the time when a young man's fancy turns to love. This might give you a clue as to what all of the traditional Easter symbols mean. So why do we have rabbits, grass, eggs, chocolate, and chickens. Well, here's the breakdown.
- Beans and Grass - Anyone who has tended a garden or watches the weather at the beginning of spring knows that this is the time for planting seeds and rebirth. Grass that has remained dormant for an entire winter begins to grow again and turn green. Beans, which are actually seeds, are planted into the fertile ground and eventually will bear fruit. Planting season starts in mid March.
- Eggs and Chicks - Now is the time when parents should consider the talk about "the birds and the bees". A hen will lay a fertilized egg. The key word here is "fertilized". After a few weeks, the eggs will hatch and a baby chick will emerge. The symbolism is for fertilization and new birth.
- Chocolate and Rabbits - Let me ask you a question - What is the most common over the counter aphrodisiac available? I'll give you a hint: Willy Wonka has an entire factory full of it. The first recorded uses of cocoa beans as a tool for sexual desire can be traced all the way back to the time of the Aztecs. On Valentines Day we give boxes of chocolates to the people who are special in our lives. Chocolate does the trick.
And rabbits? Well, rabbits multiply when they mate. Female rabbits give birth every 30 days, which means they can produce about 8 to 10 litters per year. Each litter can have up to 12 babies.
Essentially, Easter is a time to "plant seeds", "fertilize eggs", and "make babies".
What does this have to do with Jesus?
As part of Christian mythology, the Passion of Jesus is a story of the Jewish Messiah's trial, death, and resurrection that took place during the Passover season. The symbolism is for "rebirth".
Orthodox Christians do not celebrate Easter. They celebrate Passover in the tradition of a seder as defined by the New Testament Epistle to the Hebrews with their own version of what is eaten in that meal (most times substituting lamb for unleavened bread).
In America, it was not until the 1870's (after the Civil War) that the adoption of pagan traditions of Ostara became part of the American Christian tradition of Easter. This can also be traced to the Roman Catholic Church incorporating Pagan festivals to make the conversion practice and transition for other religions easier for Heathens - who the Church was trying to bring into their fold.
A Choice for Celebration
The celebration of the spring solstice can be traced back to the Druids. They really had a reason to celebrate. They had survived a cold winter season. What better way to celebrate than to find your mate and propagate your species.
The air is sweet with the bloom of flowers. The temperature is warm and people are going outside more. I recommend that if you decide to celebrate Easter properly, that you find your special someone and spend the time... doing what comes naturally after a few chocolates.
Or you could spend it gardening. A little dirt never hurt anyone.
Either way, this is a time to celebrate life and a time to make plans for your own personal renewals.