Country MoonEven though Easter is the oldest Christian holiday, we are generally more familiar with the customs and traditions of Christmas than we are of this “floating” spring holiday.

Easter falls on a different day every year, either in March or April. It is actually designated to be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon which occurs on or after the vernal equinox or, as we all look forward to, the first day of spring.

The date on which Easter falls also determines when Lent is observed each year. Lent is the 40-day period preceding Easter that is devoted to fasting, abstinence and penitence which commemorates Christ’s fasting in the wilderness. The period runs from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday.

In medieval times, the fast of Lent included meat, milk and eggs. Eggs was the one of the three that did not spoil without refrigeration. Thus, the Lentin tradition led to a surplus of eggs which meant they were cheaper to buy and give as gifts which is why they are still a key part of our Easter celebrations. In recent years Lent has become more a period of giving up one specific indulgent. The word indulgent is key here, which means for me it cannot be brussels sprouts which to this day I still despise!

Easter is named for the Anglo Saxon goddess Eostre, the goddess known for springtime celebrations and fertility. One of Eostre’s symbols of fertility was a bunny because of rabbits’ prolific reproductive cycles. German immigrants are given the credit of bringing the Easter bunny tradition to the United States.

The giving of eggs has been a symbol of rebirth in many cultures and the tradition dates back even before Easter. The actual act of painting eggs, called pysanka, originated in the Ukraine using wax and dyes. Some believe that Eostre also had a connection to dyeing eggs. There was no PAAS back then so eggs were dyed using natural items like onion peels, tree bark, flower petals and other esters occurring naturally, hence esters are linked to Eostre.

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