This week has been a busy one, as April is, as a whole, for me. It’s gone by quickly, yet I find I’m still thinking about last Sunday’s Easter gathering.

I’m not a particularly religious person. I mean that I don’t feel a real connection to any organized religion, though I’ve experienced and appreciated the rituals of several faiths. But Easter is still a time to which I look forward with excitement. Whether early, like the end of March, or late, the middle of April, for me, Easter is the real beginning of spring. And that’s true even in New England where the weather hasn’t caught up to the calendar. (It was 39 degrees yesterday, with a windchill – WINDCHILL! – of 28. I’m confident it’s warmer in Siberia. It was the Red Sox home opener. All the games for teams in the Northeast should be “away games” until at least June. Bless the hardy souls known as the “Fenway Faithful.” But I digress.)


via AllDressedUpCouture on Etsy


Easter means silly simple things like new hats and dresses, the freedom to wear white shoes (Memorial Day…pffft),  guilt-less chocolate consumption, jelly beans and colored eggs.  It is a Christian holy day, of course, to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, and for the faithful, it is a joyous occasion, full of prayer and song.  But the idea of rebirth in the spring season and many of the customs we still recognize have other origins. The word Easter is a version of Eostre, goddess of the dawn.

Easter-American Gods

How perfect was Kristen Chenoweth as Neil Gaiman’s version of Eostre in Starz “American Gods?”

Her symbol was a rabbit that laid eggs. Eostre is also a version of Paschal which derives from the Hebrew, Pesach, or Passover. Everything’s connected. So we celebrate rebirth and renewal, regardless of religious persuasion or no. The holiday brings the opportunity to reconnect with family, friends and, with luck, nature itself.  How wonderful is it to see the new green shoots of bulbs planted in fall break through the hard, dull brown surface of a slumbering garden?

Think eggs and bunnies are silly? Hatching eggs remind people of newborn or reborn life, and rabbits are prolific breeders, especially in the spring. Hiding and hunting eggs comes from rural traditions when people would have to find eggs laid in fields and hedges by chickens and other birds. It also means hunting rabbits.


Somehow, this became a children’s game. (Funny how that happens to a lot of holiday customs, eg, Halloween.) The decorating of those eggs dates to Medieval Europe, as does egg rolling. Dyed and decorated Easter eggs were brought to America by Germans in the 18th and 19th centuries as Easter celebrations became more focused, again, on children.  While my Easter celebration did include colored eggs, we didn’t hide them.  C C’s celebration did include young children, who merrily hunted down 47 of the four dozen hidden treasures. (The 48th, luckily, was discovered a day later before it could become a literal “stink bomb.”)

foil easter eggs

Spring, and by association, Easter, is supposed to make people happy, as in the end of winter. (HA!) and what makes us happier than sugar and chocolate? (Well, wine, but that’s another story.) As egg production became industrialized, the real thing was no longer “special.” Chocolate in the shape of eggs, rabbits, chicks, etc. became popular. New methods allowed mass production of filled chocolate candies (think Cadbury Crème Eggs), so Easter confections became cheaper. By the 20th century, the market was flooded with holiday chocolate, let alone all that other stuff. If you’re not going out to catch a rabbit or hunt for eggs in fields, then candy avatars (Peeps!) are the next best thing.


I get a kick from discovering the ‘why’ of our traditions. Today, after we’ve had our fill of sweets, we feast on traditional favorites. Every family has their own.  Eggs are still a big part of Easter eating, in ever more creative ways*, but what about the lamb or ham?  If Jesus ate meat at the Last Supper, it would have been lamb. Jewish Passover traditions call for lamb, so most southern European traditions do. But, in northern Europe, pigs were much more common. Hams, from pigs slaughtered in the winter, then salted and smoked, were ready to eat in the spring, before most fresh meats were available.  (There are, of course, some people who insist on celebrating Easter with a turkey. These are the same people who eat ham at Christmas. You can read about such insurrectionists in dystopian Young Adult novels.)



Regardless of what we eat, or why, cooked at home or a fancy restaurant brunch, Easter is another day for families, whether of birth or chosen, to come together, perhaps for the first time of the new year. We renew connections, reminisce about celebrations past and look forward, together and with hope, to the rest of the year to come. And if we’re lucky, while wearing new shoes.

How did you celebrate your holiday? Did you keep old traditions or make new ones?




* To read about my experience with Easter Eggs, follow the link.