Easter & Passover Traditions from
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- Easter and Passover Facts, Legends and Traditions
- The first symbol of Easter was a chicken breaking out of its shell
- Many pagan traditions have found their way into Christian religious
observances. Rabbits are one such symbol. Rabbits symbolize the fertility
of springtime. The rabbit is also the symbol of the Egyptian moon — and
the moon is used to determine the date of Easter each year.
- The hare (rabbit) is a very important Easter symbol in Germany, almost
as important as Santa Claus is in the United States for Christmas. The
hare is responsible for laying eggs and hiding them. This probably evolved
from children hunting for Easter eggs and scaring away rabbits which happened
to be in the area. The hare and egg provide a link between the pagan faith's
welcoming of spring and Christianity's Easter celebration.
- The custom of decorating eggs goes back many thousands of years. When
you add a few strokes of icing to the surface of a chocolate Easter egg,
you are carrying on an age-old tradition. Long before the Bible was written,
the egg was a sacred object and it was ornamented as part of numerous religious
and superstitious practices.
- Very probably, most of our own ancestors regarded the egg as a sacred
symbol. Numerous races and many religions venerated the egg. In its name
were conducted a great number and variety of sacred and mystic rites.
- The life hidden within the shell of the egg is mysterious and unknown.
Who knows whether the creature that emerges will be good or bad? Therefore,
great hopes and prayers are associated with the unborn life that is yet
unseen but lies asleep within the egg.
- Among ancient Egyptians, the original (or "world") egg is
the joint production of the god "Geb", whose body is the earth,
and the goddess "Nut", the sky. From this first egg was born
the "Bennyu" - the bird of Phoenix, the sun symbol. Another ancient
Egyptian religious system called the chief god "Ptah". Drawings
found by archaeologists show Ptah seated on a throne, before a potter's
wheel, fashioning a golden egg - the beginning of life.
- In Hindu mythology, the first, or "world", egg, was described
as formed in the waters of chaos before the beginning of both universe
and time. Another branch of ancient Hindu belief pictured the original
egg as being laid by their divinity, Hamsa.
- Phoenicians believed that the first egg was formed in Mot, the original,
or primeval, waters.
- In the Finnish epic, "The Kalevala", their greatest god,
"Ukko", formed the earth, sky, sun, moon and clouds from the
broken eggs of a teal.
- In keeping with almost all ancient beliefs, the Persians accepted that
the world was hatched from an egg on the first day of spring. Their New
Year's festival was celebrated at a time corresponding to Easter. Upon
this joyous occasion they had a unique custom - they exchanged dyed eggs
as good luck charms. The practice spread throughout the world. Today, children
look for colored eggs in the Easter basket.
- The egg had always intrigued, worried and fascinated people. For instance,
in antiquity, the Romans used to break the shells of eggs that they had
eaten to prevent enemies from making magic with them. It was believed that
evil Romans could cast curses by remote control with discarded empty uncrushed
- For Christians, Easter is the feast of beginnings, of the emergence
of life from darkness and death. It has been said that St. Augustine was
the first Christian authority who associated the egg with the beginning.
He compared the egg with the virtue of hope and, in particular, with the
hope of eternal life; because the egg, like hope, is that which has not
come to fruition. However, early Christian Chaldeans, Syrians and Greeks
faithfully presented each other with crimson eggs in honor of the blood
- Slavs design beautiful eggs richly ornamented with gold or silver.
The Poles and Ukrainians call their decorated eggs "Krasanki"
(meaning beauties). Whereas we may use icing, these people often use beeswax
for name writing purposes. When so decorated with beeswax, the eggs are
called "Pysanki" (written).
- Artists vie with each other to produce beautiful and original creations
on the surface of egg shells in Austria. These works of religious art are
then set into magnificent receptacles with tiny plants and ferns, as we
do with Easter baskets and shredded "'grass".
- All the Balkan and Eastern European countries employ elaborately painted
symbols on their eggs, the most frequently used design being the cross.
- In France, children carry eggs to their churches on Holy Saturday at
their first confessions for the priests' blessings. Other children hunt
for eggs in the church garden, for it is said the eggs had been dropped
by the church bells that were silent from Maundy Thursday.
- Although there are no records of Easter eggs as a general custom in
Western Europe before the 15th century, there is a tribe in Africa that
colors eggs at Easter. They are Mohammedans now, but were once Christians
hundreds of years ago. It is also recorded that in the year 1307 King Edward
I of England had 450 boiled eggs dyed and covered with gold leaf.
- It had been suggested that the many customs associated with Easter
eggs developed in Europe because of the Crusaders. They are believed to
have brought the idea back with them from the East.
- Thus, we see that the egg has had special meaning and has been revered
by humankind for thousands of years as a symbol of birth, life and hope.
- The word "Easter" is derived from Eostre or Ostara - the
Anglo-Saxon goddess of the dawn. The festival in her honor was celebrated
on the first day of spring. It was she who changed a bird into a rabbit,
and thus this four-footed little creature joined the egg as another Easter
symbol. In our Easter baskets we always include delightfully decorated
eggs and rabbits. At the beginning of the 19th century, the first sugar
and pastry Easter bunnies became popular in southern Germany.
- Although in North America the religious significance of the egg has
almost disappeared, its position has remained as one of the principal symbols
of Easter. Children roll them on the White House lawn. Almost every candy,
food, drug and chain store throughout the length and breadth of the country
sells Easter eggs and rabbits. Usually, they are made of hollow chocolate,
but may also be chocolate covered marshmallow or cream-filled nut and fruit.
Many are solid chocolate.
- Naturally, when the chocolate novelty is decorated with pleasingly
colored icing and attractively designed special icing flowers and other
sugar candy ornaments, the effect is a delight to behold.
- Like Easter, Passover is celebrated in
the spring. The Seder, the traditional meal celebrated in Jewish homes
on the first day of Passover, includes the eating of hard-boiled eggs as
a symbol of the hope and joy that things are to grow again. It is likely
that Jesus' Last Supper was a Passover meal.
- Easter in Latin and Greek is "Pasha"; the Hebrew translation
of that word is "Pesach" — the Hebrew word for Passover. Since
the egg is so closely associated with Easter, expressions like "Paste
egg" or "Pasch egg" evolved — all of which are modernized
versions of the Latin equivalent of the Hebrew word for Passover.
- While candy and confections are not identified with the Jewish celebration
of Passover the way they are with Easter, many Seders are ended with the
eating of chocolate products that are "Kosher la pesach" — Kosher
for Passover. No corn syrup or lecithin can be used in the preparation
of this chocolate that can be either dark or light — Kosher dairy. Passover
confections include chocolate bars with nuts, raisins and dried fruit.
Recently, Matzo bread (an unleavened flatbread), dipped or half-dipped
in chocolate, has become a popular product.
- Every time you purchase, make or consume chocolate eggs and rabbits,
or give Easter baskets or Passover chocolates, you are joining with your
ancestors in helping to welcome the arrival of spring — and the joyous
Christian and Jewish festivals of hope, rebirth and deliverance. Be proud
of your glorious traditions, which link you to an ancient and honorable
- In 1998, the National Confectioners Association estimates that nearly
$900 million worth of candy will be enjoyed on Easter, making it the third
highest-selling confectionery holiday — behind only Halloween and Christmas.
In addition to the 13.5 billion jellybeans which will be produced during
the Easter holiday, children will hunt for 50 to 60 million foil-wrapped
eggs, marshmallow chicks and other personal favorites brought by the Easter
- [This information was adapted from material provided by the National
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