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The Traditions of Easter

As with almost all holidays that have their roots in Christianity, Easter has been secularized and  commercialized. The dichotomous nature of Easter and its symbols,  however, is not necessarily a modern fabrication. Since its conception  as a holy celebration in the second century, Easter has had its  non-religious side. In fact, Easter was originally a pagan festival.

The ancient Saxons celebrated the  return of spring with an uproarious festival commemorating their goddess of offspring and of springtime, Easter. When the second-century  Christian missionaries encountered the tribes of the north with their  pagan celebrations, they attempted to convert them to Christianity. They did so, however, in a clandestine manner. It would have been suicide  for the very early Christian converts to celebrate their holy days with  observances that did not coincide with celebrations that already  existed. To save lives, the missionaries cleverly decided to spread  their religious message slowly throughout the populations by allowing  them to continue to celebrate pagan feasts, but to do so in a Christian  manner. As it happened, the pagan festival of Easter occurred at the  same time of year as the Christian observance of the Resurrection of  Christ. It made sense, therefore, to alter the festival itself, to make  it a Christian celebration as converts were slowly won over. The early  name, Easter, was eventually changed to its modern spelling, Easter.

The Date of Easter
Prior to A.D. 325, Easter was variously celebrated on different days of the  week, including Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. In that year, the Council  of Nicaea was convened by emperor Constantine. It issued the Easter Rule which states that Easter shall be celebrated on the first Sunday that  occurs after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox, or  first day of spring. Therefore, Easter must be celebrated on a Sunday  between the dates of March 22 and April 25. Its date is tied to the  lunar cycle.

The Cross
The Cross is the  symbol of the Crucifixion, as opposed to the Resurrection. However, at  the Council of Nicaea, in A.D. 325, Constantine decreed that the Cross  was the official symbol of Christianity. The Cross is not only a symbol  of Easter, but it is more widely used, especially by the Catholic  Church, as a year-round symbol of their faith. The Easter Bunny

The Easter Bunny is not a modern  invention. The symbol originated with the pagan festival of Easter. The  goddess, Easter, was worshiped by the Anglo-Saxons through her earthly  symbol, the rabbit.

The Germans brought the symbol of the Easter rabbit to America. It was widely ignored by other Christians  until shortly after the Civil War. In fact, Easter itself was not widely celebrated in America until after that time.

The Easter Egg
As with the  Easter Bunny and the holiday itself, the Easter Egg predates the  Christian holiday of Easter. The exchange of eggs in the springtime is a custom that was centuries old when Easter was first celebrated by  Christians.

From the earliest times, the egg was a symbol of rebirth in most cultures. Eggs were often wrapped in gold  leaf or, if you were a peasant, colored brightly by boiling them with  the leaves or petals of certain flowers.

Today, children hunt colored eggs and place them in Easter baskets along with the modern version of real  Easter eggs -- those made of plastic or chocolate candy.

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