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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.

 

pink_easter_egg

The April 2015 Full Moon occurs on the 4th at 12:05 UTC. It comes the day before Easter this year.

The Egg Moon is the name often given to the Full Moon before Easter, so this next Full Moon barely qualifies. That name is connected to the longer days encouraging hens to lay more eggs. That idea doesn’t hold true for the more common factory farms that artificially create longer days all year. But we also associate this time of spring with wild birds creating nest for their eggs. You may have noticed birds investigating places around your home for nesting spots and gathering materials. I have been discouraging sparrows from building nests in my retractable awning the past two weeks.

mosspinks

The April full moon is also called the Full Pink Moon from the moss pink (AKA wild ground phlox, mountain pinks or wild blue phlox), which is one of the common early flowers of the spring. Though gardeners plant it, it is also a spring wildflower. This is a slightly fragrant, perennial, five-petaled flower which blooms profusely and grows like a ground cover in woodland shade. In gardens, it is often used as an underplanting for larger, summer blooming plants. The plant can be colored rose, mauve, blue, white, or pink in late spring to early summer.

This year the Full Moon also coincides with a total lunar eclipse which will be visible in Asia, Australia, Pacific and the Americas.

There are other seasonal names for this Full Moon.  The Full Sprouting Grass Moon, Seed Moon and New World colonists’ Planter’s Moon all come from the season.

You can celebrate the Egg Moon and the Pink Moon by dying hard-boiled some eggs pink. My grandmother only made pink eggs (using beet juice) and brownish-yellow eggs (using onion skins). No Easter egg kits for her.

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.

The pre-Christian Saxons celebrated the spring goddess called Eostre’s feast day on the Vernal Equinox in March. Her special animal was the spring hare (rabbit) and Eostre’s association with eggs and hares was incorporated into the Christian holiday of Easter.

 

 

egg moon

The March Full Moon (march 5, this year) goes by many names including Windy Moon, Sap Moon, Worm Moon, Crow Moon, Oak Moon, Storm Moon, Seed Moon, Maple Moon and Fish Moon. As with the other months, most names are derived from observations of nature and animals in the area.

One name comes from religion: the Lenten Moon. Early American Christian settlers, often used this name for it. In some Christian denominations, Lent is the forty-day-long liturgical season of fasting and prayer before Easter. The forty days represent the time Jesus spent in the desert, where according to the Bible he endured temptation by Satan.

The religious intention of Lent is preparation not only for the events linked to the Passion of Christ and Easter. many Christians associate the season with fasting or giving up something we desire. That practice had a practical purpose in times when the end of winter was a time of sparse supplies anyway.

Many of the Christian holidays were timed to coincide and co-opt pagan holidays. For example, the Resurrection of Jesus is connected to pagan spring seasonal celebrations.

The computation of when Easter falls is based on the old lunar calendar. In 725, Bede wrote, “The Sunday following the full Moon which falls on or after the equinox will give the lawful Easter.” But that rule does not reflect the actual ecclesiastical rules precisely. For example, the astronomical equinox is a natural astronomical phenomenon, which can fall on 19, 20 or 21 March, while the ecclesiastical date is fixed by convention on 21 March.

The full moon before Easter is often known as the Egg Moon which has a seasonal connection in the laying of eggs by birds and also is carried over to Easter celebrations in the secular sense.

The Lenten Moon is considered to be the last moon of the winter season. Of course, this is all confused by the fact that Easter changes year to year – sometimes in March, sometimes in April. For 2015, Easter is later, falling on April 5.

Spring arrives this year on March 20.

The March Full Moon also comes early this year – also on the fifth day – and so it is unlikely to feel like the end of winter for most people in northern climes.

Pieter Aertsen, The Egg Dance (1557)

Pieter Aertsen, The Egg Dance (1557)

 

That doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate anyway. An egg dance is a traditional Easter game in which eggs are laid on the ground and the goal is to dance among them without damaging them. As a pagan symbol of the rebirth of the Earth in spring, it was adopted by early Christians. The version of egg dancing depicted in the painting by Pieter Aertsen has participants rolling an egg out of a bowl while keeping within a circle drawn by chalk and then flipping the bowl to cover the egg. This had to be done with the feet without touching the other objects placed on the floor.

This week is technically the last frost date for Paradelle, but the weather has been rather cold. We had a bit of snow on Monday and below freezing for a few nights.

Nevertheless,  this weekend will be spent in the garden.  I find turning the soil and raking it smooth and even to be very relaxing. One of my sons will be home for Easter and he told me he wants to work in the vegetable garden, as we did when he was a child.

The weekend weather will be dry here and at least 60 degrees, but will drop back down to below 40 at night.

The weather was not kind on this month’s full moon on the 15th. But it was an exciting full moon because we had a lunar eclipse that gave us a Blood Moon.  Colonists in the New World often called the April moon the Planter’s Moon and further south, it is planting time.

Some years, like 2014, we can also call the April moon the Egg Moon. The name came from several places but eggs have long been symbolic of spring, regeneration, rebirth and are associated with some religious holidays of this time, such as Easter.

Domesticated hens do begin laying more eggs with longer days and many wild bird species also lay their eggs now.

Romanian decorated eggs

If you think painting eggs for celebrations is a recent tradition, you are wrong. The ancient Persians painted eggs for Nowrooz, their New Year celebration, which falls on the Spring equinox. Sculptures on the walls of Persepolis show 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.

The pre-Christian Saxons had a spring goddess called Eostre, whose feast was held on the Vernal Equinox, around 21 March.

Eostre’s special animal was the spring hare (rabbit), so it is believed that Eostre’s association with eggs and hares, combined with the rebirth of the land in spring was adapted for the Christian holiday of Easter.

The melting snow, spring rains and warmer days, finds many of us preparing for planting, if it’s not warm enough to actually plant.

If you are a follower of farming and moon folklore, then you know that you should plant root crops during the waning moon (after the full moon and until the new moon) and plant your above-ground crops during the waxing moon (as the moon thickens, like the wax drippings of a candle) from the new moon until the next full moon.

This unscientific practice was based on the belief that the moon’s magnetic force pulls everything that contains water.  It pulls the ocean. Some says it tugs at our blood. And the folklore says it pulls at the water in plants and seeds.

Green leafy plants will seek the moon during its waxing phase. Root crops growing below the ground will push their energy down, away from the moon, during its waning phase.

I did no planting so far this month. I will be waiting for the New Moon on the 29th of April and get most of my seeds and plants in by the next Full Moon on the 14th.

The Judas Kiss by Gustave Doré, 1866

The Judas Kiss by Gustave Doré, 1866

Good Friday is the Friday before Easter, the day on which Christians annually observe the commemoration of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

As a child, I never understood what was “good” about the day that was being remembered.

I discovered much later several things about the day. First off, Good Friday is called “good” only in English. We don’t really know the origin of the name but some say it is from “Gottes Freitag” meaning “God’s Friday” or from the the German Gute Freitag. The Anglo-Saxons called it Long Friday. In other countries, it is known not as “good” but as Holy Friday, Black Friday, Great Friday, Long Friday, and Silent Friday.

The Gute Freitag explanation seems weak because Germans call this day Karfreitag meaning Sorrowful or Suffering Friday.

In the early days of Christianity, it was questioned whether or not to observe Jesus’ death. Until the 4th century, Jesus’ Last Supper, his death, and his Resurrection were observed in one single commemoration on the evening before Easter. But since then, these three events have been observed separately, with the Resurrection considered the pivotal event and celebrated as easter.

The phrase “Good Friday” does not appear in the Bible. The word Friday isn’t in the Bible. Actually, the days are called by numbers. The seventh day is the Sabbath and the other days are first, second, third and so on.

Our Good Friday has been seen since those early days as a day of sorrow, penance, and fasting.

There was also controversy concerning when the events should be celebrated. According to the Jewish calendar, Jesus died on 15 Nisan, the first day of Passover. Translated to the Gregorian (Western) calendar, that would be April 7. Christians determined not to commemorate it on a fixed date and followed the varying date of the Jewish Passover which conforms to the Jewish lunisolar calendar (rather than the Gregorian solar calendar).

That connected Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples on the evening before his Crucifixion to the Passover seder. Despite this “inaccuracy,” this dating has continued making Good Friday (and so, Easter) fall between March 20 (the first possible date for Passover) and April 23.

Easter occurs two days later and is calculated differently in Eastern Christianity and Western Christianity. Easter falls on the first Sunday following the Paschal Full Moon. This “full moon” does not actually correspond directly to any astronomical event. It is the 14th day of a lunar month and may differ from the date of the actual full moon by up to two days.

The full moon on or after 21 March and connected to the vernal equinox makes the Paschal Full Moon an “ecclesiastical full moon” in the Northern Hemisphere and the entry of spring that is used to determine of the date of Easter. The name “paschal” is derived from the Greek pascha which is a transliteration of the Hebrew pesach, both words meaning Passover. The date of Easter is determined as the first Sunday after the paschal full moon.

To further confuse the dating, Catholic and Protestant churches say that Jesus was killed on Friday and resurrected Sunday morning, the year given as 33 A.D. The Early New Testament church did not observe an Easter holiday, but to move people away from celebrating the Biblical Christian Passover, the Catholic Church appropriated a pagan holiday of the goddess Ishtar (Astarte) who was worshiped by Babylonians and Assyrians who was celebrated around the spring equinox.

Some Biblical scholars interpret Jesus’ crucifixion at being 3 p.m. on a third day (Wednesday not Friday) in 30 A.D. After 3 days and nights in a tomb, he was resurrected.

tree+phlox

Two plant symbols of spring – a cherry tree in a bed of Phlox subulata – Yachounomori Garden in Tatebayashi, Gunma

The April full moon (tonight) is often called the Full Pink Moon. that particular moon name is taken from moss pink, or wild ground phlox, which is one of the common early flowers of the spring.

One of our most easily recognized spring wildflowers, Wild Blue Phlox produces slightly fragrant, five-petaled blue flowers which bloom profusely on one foot stems. It grows like a ground cover in woodland shade. In gardens, it is used as an underplanting for larger, summer blooming plants.

Phlox subulata (creeping phlox, moss phlox, moss pink, or mountain phlox) is native to eastern and central USA, and widely cultivated. It is an evergreen perennial forming mats or cushions of hairy, linear leaves and has small, five-petaled flowers that bloom in rose, mauve, blue, white, or pink in late spring to early summer.

There are sometimes altercations between gardeners and law enforcement because the odor given off by the plants is sometimes mistaken for that of marijuana!

Continuing with signs of spring from nature, other names for this moon are the Full Sprouting Grass Moon and Seed Moon.

The Egg Moon – the full moon before Easter – is another name associated with the first moon after March 21. With the longer days, hens are laying more eggs. At least on the old-fashioned family farm (not on factory farms that artificially alter the days and nights), hens lay fewer eggs during the winter when days are short.

Many bird species also lay their eggs in the early spring, so that the young have the longest possible time to prepare for winter and migrations.

Eggs have long been a symbol of spring, regeneration, rebirth.

The ancient Persians painted eggs for Nowrooz, their New Year celebration, which falls on the Spring equinox. Sculptures on the walls of Persepolis show 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.

The pre-Christian Saxons had a spring goddess called Eostre, whose feast was held on the Vernal Equinox, around 21 March. Her animal was the spring hare (rabbit), so some believe that Eostre’s association with eggs and hares, combined with the rebirth of the land in spring was adapted for the Christian Easter.

Native American tribes along the coast called it the Full Fish Moon because this was the time that the shad swam upstream to spawn.

American Shad  Alosa sapidissima

American Shad        Alosa sapidissima

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