Today is the Christian holiday of Easter Sunday. It marks Jesus’ resurrection from the dead three days after his crucifixion. The day it is celebrated is a floating holiday in the calendar year. It is based on the cycles of the moon.

Jesus was said to have risen from the dead on the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring. That makes the day vary from March 22 – April 25.

robin eggsI have written before about the word “Easter” and its religious and cultural associations. It certainly has earlier pagan traditions. Anglo Saxons worshiped Eostre, the goddess of springtime and the return of the sun after the long winter.

According to legend, Eostre once saved a bird whose wings had frozen during the winter by turning it into a rabbit. Because the rabbit had once been a bird, it could still lay eggs, and that rabbit became our Easter Bunny. Eggs were a symbol of fertility in part because they used to be so scarce during the winter.

19dd6-mandy_walden-lunar_hareThe pre-Christian Saxons celebrated Eostre’s feast day on the Vernal Equinox in March. Her special animal was the spring hare (rabbit) and this association with eggs and hares was co-opted into the Christian holiday of Easter.

Coloring and painting eggs is something the ancient Persians painted did for Nowrooz, their New Year celebration, which falls on the Spring equinox. There are images on the walls of Persepolis showing people carrying eggs for Nowrooz to the king. At the Jewish Passover Seder, a hard-boiled egg dipped in salt water symbolizes the Passover sacrifice offered at the Temple in Jerusalem.