Easter traditions celebrated by Pagans were thought to be adopted by ChristiansThere are various, often controversial, accounts of what Easter means, but to a large sect of Christians the Easter celebration centers on the resurrection of Jesus Christ and is the most important religious holiday next to Christmas.
While Christians associate Easter with the death and resurrection of Christ, the rituals that comprise our traditional Easter celebration actually are thought to be rooted in Pagan culture, specifically with Estre, the goddess of dawn and spring. It is said that these rites were eventually adopted when some Pagans converted to Christianity following the death of Christ.
Estre was associated with the symbols for fertility and new life. The hare - fertility - evolved into the Easter Bunny as we know it today. The egg, Estre's symbol of new life, was adapted as our traditional Easter egg.
It is true that the Easter celebration differs among various cultures: To some, Good Friday is the actual day of celebration, while to others Easter Sunday is the commemoration day.
Customarily, attending worship service is the first call to order on Easter Sunday, followed by a big Easter brunch with family and friends. It is a day for brand-new spring dresses and hats, and Easter baskets overflowing with chocolate bunnies and colored eggs.
The merchandising industry has capitalized on the Easter celebration. Over time Easter has become as big of a commercial holiday as Valentine's Day. Stores are stocked with plastic eggs in a rainbow of pastels, candy, candy and more candy, racks stuffed with Easter cards and bunny-shaped everything -- door clings, salt and pepper shakers, chocolate, stuffed animals and, of course, Peeps.
Food is a very important part of the Easter celebration, considering it follows 40 days of fasting for observers of Lent. Traditionally, both in Christian and Pagan cultures, the hot cross bun is a food staple of Easter. In addition, Easter eggs can be found on tables all over the world, colored or not, next to the Easter ham or whatever dish is traditionally served during your Easter celebration.
Here is an easy recipe for the Easter ham:
- 10 lbs. ham, semi-boneless
- 1 (8-ounce) can frozen orange juice concentrate
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- Whole cloves, as necessary
- Preheat oven to 325.
- Make diagonal, square cuts in the top of the ham, and press one whole clove into each square.
- Mix the orange juice and brown sugar.
- Bake for 20 minutes per pound. Baste every 1/2 hour or so, making sure you get the ham back into the oven quickly. When the top begins to caramelize cover it with aluminum foil.