easter

So my mom passed me an article from Politics Daily about “young people” disconnecting from Church (going to, affiliating with). The article was worried about it and proposed that politicization of Christianity as a right-wing thing might be part of the reason for the decline in interest.

I think there’s nothing to worry about. It’s just a sign of the times; postindustrial society is fragmented, and not all that in-need of Church as a social institution, especially when we have increasingly connected work environments. Plus the customizability of everything in these past 15 years or so I believe naturally leads to greater individualism in religion, alongside all the rest of our values. Doesn’t mean we are spiritually empty.

So my mom and I were going back and forth about this because predictably she disagrees. She brought up Lent, and I brought up my favorite thing about Easter: its etymology.

This first entered my consciousness in Sweden, the Stockholm trip with Chris Baronavski mentioned below. We were actually there during my spring break from grad school. Holy Week. And there were all these groovy cardboard eggs going around:

Along with Easter trees, their nekkid branches hung with similarly pretty eggs and colored feathers. And feathers and twigs on display in windows, too.

I found out that little kids dress up as witches (påskkärringar), in deference to lore that during Easter, witches fly to Blåkulla to cavort with the devil. Rather than cavort with the devil, however, the kids actually trick-or-treat for Easter candy and hunt for eggs all over everywhere by following clues and solving riddles.

And what’s more, I learned that the word Easter comes from the name, Eostre, a not-well documented Germanic pagan goddess whose name, related to “East” and “Shining,” associates her with dawn and connotes spring. And that she has a legend associated with her:

A story is told that the goddess turned her pet bird into a rabbit to entertain some children. The rabbit immediately laid some brightly colored eggs, which the goddess gave to the children.

I read this in a tourist brochure I found in Stockholm. I don’t have it with me now, but I found a few people online who agree with me. This particular source goes on to say:

The idea of an egg-laying rabbit came to the United States in the 1700s. German immigrants in the Pennsylvania Dutch area told their children about the “Osterhase” (also: “Oschter Haws”) or Easter Bunny. Only the good children received gifts of coloured eggs in the nests that they had made in their caps and bonnets before Easter. Presumably, the Oschter Haws laid them when they were not looking.

Incidentally, while we retain the name Easter for the holiday itself, the Swedes have adopted the term Påsk, deriving from the term Passover, like most of the other Christian-dominated languages (Pascha). But not ours and German, of course.

This combined with the way we determine the date on which we celebrate it (something like the week after the first full moon after the vernal equinox) has me pretty convinced that, yes,

Easter is actually about rabbits laying eggs.

Sorry, Jesus. We will celebrate you on this day, too, but we’re not going to rename the holiday.

I can honestly say that up until I started to understand the “true [Christian] meaning” of Easter and that “there is no Easter bunny,” I actually did use to celebrate Easter pretty whole-heartedly, with roots in a very traditional form. The Christ aspect is a good story of course, but it has never meant as much to me as the Easter bunny did growing up.

So I guess my point is, I think Church itself has always been social or political. Religion/spirituality’s at its essence independent of Church and has always been a matter of personal conviction, not necessarily relevant to the location of worship. Otherwise the English language wouldn’t have persisted in calling Easter Easter all these years.

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5 responses to “easter

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