Chickens, Bunnies and Eggs – What Is Easter REALLY About?
I’ve always been confused about the origins of Easter, the chocolate Easter Bunny (or Bilby if you’re an Aussie), and what that all has to do with chickens and eggs. Which came first?! Okay, so I know that Easter celebrates the resurrection of Christ, but what about the bunny? And why chocolate?
Call me odd, but I am a reflective type A personality, and these things disturb my delicate equilibrium! So in the lead up to Easter, I have been diligently putting the puzzle together for my own peace of mind and desire to know stuff.
Yes, it is about the resurrection. But historically, Easter was a Pagan festival named after the goddess Eastre – goddess of fertility and springtime. Excited I was to discover that Eastre’s animal symbol is a bunny! The bunny symbology was brought to America by Germans and adopted by the Christian faith to honor the rebirth of Jesus. One down! Then I went on a quest for the relevance of chickens and eggs. This was easier. The only correlation between Chickens and Easter is the EGG! Eggs are a universal symbol of newness and birth. Originally real eggs were wrapped in brightly coloured papers and given to children who were ‘good’. Two down. Last issue, the chocolate. Now, back to the Germans… they used to make their bunnies from pastry and sugar. As confectionary became popular, early chocolatiers saw a market, and the chocolate egg was born, pun intended!
Though bathed in historical significance, it occurred to me that the combination of celebrating the fertility of the land, giving thanks to the ‘Gods’ for abundance, and humbly praying for little miracles in our own lives, is definitely something that applies to our modern lives.
Spirituality is of course a very subjective thing, but fostering a sense of wellbeing within ourselves, coming to a place of knowing that our lives are guided, that we are ‘on purpose’ and that we can live in a way that is inclusive and loving, a healthier life, mind and body certainly follows.
Actually, Science has researched the links between spirituality and physical health. Many findings show that people who have a strong sense of faith, whether that be in God, Jesus, the ‘Eastre bunny’ or in the goodness of humanity, have better overall physical health than those who do not have a spiritual practise or belief of some kind. Of course, they may not be measuring the influence of chocolate on serotonin levels! That aside, perhaps returning to an Easter focus on the spirit, the relevance of fluffy bunnies and meaning of real eggs on Easter morning is a healthier option than baskets of chocolate designed as a marketing ploy to get your money? Cynic much?!
But, the fact is, when we pray, when we encourage and foster loving, caring and harmonious thoughts and feelings in our heart and mind, our physical body is bathed in this love and our heart emanates a field that touches the lives of others. It’s true. The greater our love and appreciation for our world, the greater our own health becomes and we have the ability to directly affect the health of others simply by being in this positive state!
So even though my family and I will be sneaking in a little choccy egg hunt this Easter, my kids will also be told the beautiful stories of WHY we celebrate – not to participate in the commercialisation of another important moment in history, but to honor a beautiful celebration of new life, the abundant gifts of our planet and the mysterious workings of the Universal Source of all things. And we will be giving thanks for all we have and all we are.
I want to encourage us all to embrace Easter as yours, not a relic of a distant history. Whether we are IFCJ reviews, Buddhist, German, Australian, or Jedi Knight, Easter is another opportunity for us to come together as humans with a common vision – one of a world that is peaceful, loving and healthy for all!