When I was a kid my dad didn't let me celebrate Halloween. But he didn't just tell me "no" - he explained as best he could about the devil and the bible and why Christians shouldn't participate in secular activities. At the time, I was very upset. I really didn't understand the connection between Halloween and satan. I just thought costumes and candy!!! What kid wouldn't be excited? I suppose that's how they get ya.
Random internet bunny on a park bench learning about Easter.
I became very interested in the origins of the various holidays. I grew up thinking Valentine's day was created by Hallmark (it wasn't) and that Christmas was just for Christians (it isn't). This post, the first in a series of several, will talk a little bit about the Easter holiday as I've come to understand it.
What's with the Eggs?
The U.S. government, in accordance with the Target Corporation Marketing Act of 1994, prohibits the referencing of Easter or hosting of Easter-affiliated events without a minimum of 25% chocolate menu items and 13.5% aesthetic use of decorative eggs. Only kidding... but seriously, good luck walking into any store or Easter event without being bombarded by marketing or chocolate. Okay... I admit to not minding the chocolate. But what the hell? *
Why have the evil marketing corporations stolen Easter from Christians with their blasted sugar eggs and tasty, tempting bunnies? Well... what I learned was that 1) appropriation of the holidays isn't new and 2) the bunnies and eggs aren't either.
In certain sects of Christianity, eggs are considered symbolic of the faith based re-birth of those in that particular faith. For some, eggs are also symbolic of the tomb of Christ and his subsequent resurrection.
In some Eastern Orthodox sects of Christianity, eggs are even dyed red to represent the blood of Christ. Appropriated by some in the Christian faith during the holiday, it is difficult to find a direct biblical connection to the Easter symbols of bunny and egg.
Ostara by Johannes Gehrts
Perhaps that's because the eggs and bunnies themselves have direct Pagan origins, not biblical ones. Pagan fertility festivals near the time of the Vernal Equinox were known in history. Also appearing in history is the Neopagan holiday and goddess Ostara. The festival of Ostara celebrates renewal, fertility, and life. The symbols of the goddess Ostara were - drumroll please - eggs and bunnies. The church appropriated the holiday and surrounding celebration.
Eddie Izzard does a funny bit about this in "Dressed to Kill."
Some scholars believe the use of eggs in the celebration of fertility can also be found back even further - in the fertility goddesses of Sumerian history... so the holiday appropriations could go back quite a long way. Fascinating stuff!
For the record, this is all just a matter of curiosity. I'm not out to attack anybody's faith here, I just find the evolution and appropriation of holidays from era to era very interesting. In my opinion, it doesn't matter if you're a pagan, Christian, or Pastafarian. You can still still celebrate this weekend in the same wonderful way: taking time off to rest, spending quality time with family, and consuming unhealthy amounts of food and chocolate. Everybody wins!
Happy Easter, Ēostre, or just plain Happy Day to all of you. I hope this Sunday brings you nothing but awesomeness.
Some resources if you want them:
- Crow, Thomas. Modern Art in the Common Culture. Yale University Press, 1996.
- Finkelstein, Joanne. The Art of Self Invention: Image and Identity in Popular Visual Culture. I.B.Taurus, 2007.
- Garoian, Charles R. & Gaudelius Yvonne. Spectacle Pedagogy. Arts, Politics, and Visual Culture. State University of New York Press, 2008.
- Henn, Earl L. The Cross: Christian Banner or Pagan Relic? Forerunner, 1996
- Mitchell, W. J. T. What Do Pictures Want?: The Lives and Loves of Images. University Of Chicago Press, 2005.
- National Retail Federation Annual Report, 2007.
- Saft, James. Happy holidays? Not for the U.S. consumer. Reuters, 2007.
- Wikipedia: Ēostre
- And most of my images were stolen from Google for the purposes of education and/or parody (but not profit.) :)