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As Christians celebrated the festival of Easter in commemoration of Jesus’ resurrection this weekend, the familiar sights of Easter eggs and the Easter bunny served as a reminder of its very ancient origins outside of the Christian tradition. Pagan spring festivals with the theme of new life and relief from the cold of winter became connected explicitly to Jesus having conquered death by being resurrected following his crucifixion.
In most countries in Europe, the name for Easter is derived from the Jewish festival of Passover. For example, in Greek the feast is called Pascha, in Italian Pasqua, in Danish it is Paaske, and in French it is Paques.
But in English-speaking countries, and in Germany, Easter takes its name from a pagan goddess from Anglo-Saxon England who was described in a book by the eighth-century English monk Bede. Eostre was a goddess of spring or renewal and that’s why her feast is attached to the vernal equinox. In Germany the festival is called Ostern, and the goddess is called Ostara.
What about the eggs and rabbits associated with Easter today you may ask?
Many of the pagan customs associated with the celebration of spring eventually became absorbed within Christianity as symbols of the resurrection of Jesus. Eggs, as a symbol of new life, became a common explanation of the resurrection; after the chill of the winter months, nature was coming to life again.
During the Middle Ages, people began decorating eggs and eating them as a treat following mass on Easter Sunday after fasting through Lent. This is actually something that still happens, especially in eastern European countries.
As a child I remember enjoying rolling the eggs we had painted on Easter Sunday morning. Dating back hundreds of years, the tradition of egg rolling has always been all about children having fun – first by decorating hard-boiled eggs and then by rolling them down a grassy hill to see which one will go the furthest and survive with the least amount of cracks. In days gone by, real eggs were wrapped in onion skins then boiled to give their shells an attractive marbled appearance. Alternatively, the eggs would be repeatedly dipped in wax, etched and then dyed to build up intricate multicoloured designs.
Eating hard-boiled eggs after they’ve come crashing down a hillside may not sound like the sort of Easter treat you and your family might get excited about, but actually holding your own egg-rolling competition as part of a picnic is great fun and, even better, it costs next to nothing.
This year Easter eggs have become a form of political protest in Myanmar. Click on the link below to find out more.
The first association of the rabbit with Easter, was a mention of the “Easter hare” in a book by German professor of medicine Georg Franck von Franckenau published in 1722. In it he recalls a folklore that hares would hide the coloured eggs that children hunted for, which suggests to us that as early as the 18th century, decorated eggs were hidden in gardens for egg hunts.
This year the Easter Christian and pagan elements we associate with it have for me held an even greater significance. As we emerge from a most extraordinary and challenging year we can begin to look forward to the resurrection of lives that have been on hold. With Covid-19 cases and deaths continuing to fall combined with the amazing job that is being carried out by the vaccination programme a brighter future is on the horizon. If everything goes to plan, the Government’s ‘Roadmap’ will see the end of covid related restrictions in 11 weeks time, on Monday 21st June.
Just as we looked forward to Easter we can begin to look forward to a time when our lives will be fully reborn. In the same way that every child is born into what for it is a new world, our emergence into a post covid-19 world presents us with a new world to grow up in and live our lives. But what will the reborn post covid world look like? The following quotes offer some interesting food for thought.
“What will the world look like after COVID-19? Many of the problems we will face in the next decade will simply be more extreme versions of those that we already confront today. The world will only look significantly different this time if, as we emerge from this crisis, we decide to take action to resolve these problems and bring about fundamental change.”
Daniel Susskind – fellow in economics at Balliol College, Oxford University
“The future of work has arrived faster, along with its challenges—many of them potentially multiplied—such as income polarisation, worker vulnerability, more gig work, and the need for workers to adapt to occupational transitions. This acceleration is the result not only of technological advances but also of new considerations for health and safety, and economies and labor markets will take time to recover and will likely emerge changed.”
James Manyika – Chairman and Director of the McKinsey Global Institute.
“If the international community fails to respond decisively now, the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement will be fatally derailed. A new multilateralism—in which reform of the Bretton Woods institutions will play a key role—is needed now and must be based on a vision of development that puts human rights, gender equality, and climate at its centre.
Jean Saldanah – Director of the European Network on Debt and Development
“Our goal for recovery should be full employment and a new social contract. Public investment in the care economy, education, and low-carbon infrastructure can form the backbone of stimulus that reduces inequality.”
Sharan Burrow – General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation.
So much for the global impact of the Covid pandemic and the new world order that is going to emerge as a result of it, what about Bridport?
How will our town emerge from and its impact? What should our priorities be? What do you want post Covid Bridport to look and be like? What part should the Town Council play in shaping and delivering change? What are you prepared to do to deliver a better Bridport and world?