Easter always falls on the Sunday after the first new moon that follows the vernal equinox (march 21) which is why it falls between March 22 and April 25. The name comes from an old Spring Goddess who had many names: Ostra (Scandinavians), Eostre (Anglo-Saxons), and Eastre (Germans).
Rabbits have been consider even before Christian times as a holy creature associated with fertility and the return of Spring. However, the Easter bunny is of German origins. In 16th Century literature, he is considered the springtime version of St. Nicholas. He rewards the good children with colored eggs.
Eggs have been symbols of continuing life and fertility. Many saw the egg as a natural wonder and proof of the renewal of life. They were considered one of the forbidden foods during Lent. Therefore, it was a major treat to have them during Easter. Hard boiled eggs were dyed red to symbolize Christ's blood and given to children as a talisman to preserve their health over the next twelve months. This custom has survived many years and is still practice til this day. The protective qualities of the scarlet dyed egg are still invoked in parts of Europe to guard fields and vineyards from hail and lightning by burying one on the property. Here is some egg lore:
- Breaking the smaller end of the egg betokens only disappointment of one's hope.
- The discovery of a double yolk within is cause for terror or celebration depending on what school of thought is followed - some say it presages a wedding, others a death.
- Once the egg is consumed, its shell must be broken up lest a witch use it to gain power over the person who ate it.
- A witch might also make a boat from an intact shell, then set sail in it and wreck ships at sea.
- Discarded shells should never be burned because doing so will cause the hens to cease to lay.
Numerous superstitions surround Easter and Good Friday. One is in celebration of Christ's resurrection, the sun "dances" as it comes up on Easter morning. If looked at through a darkened lens, it is said to bear the imprint of a lamb, an image associated with Christian mythology. If the wind blows on Easter, it will blow throughout the year and that a shower of rain promises a good crop of grass but little hay.
You know how it is a custom to buy new clothes for Easter. Well, that tradition came from the fact that Lent precedes Easter. At one time, the same set of clothes is worn throughout that time which are discarded for a new outfit on Easter Sunday. Of course there is a superstition tied to this custom. Those who don't wear at least one new thing risk having their clothes spoiled by birds, spat upon by passing dogs or their eyes pecked out by crows. Ouch!
Children born on Easter are said to be blessed with good fortune. Those born on Good Friday are doomed to be unlucky. Holy water saved from Easter is said to be an effective cure for many illnesses.