Easter is not just a religious holiday, the remembrance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, it is also the day we eat chocolate Easter eggs. But why do we eat eggs and where do these eggs come from? Do the church bells get them in Rome, or does the Easter Bunny bring them?
The Story of the Roman Church bells is obviously a Roman Catholic one. It is the one I grew up with. During the church service on Holy Thursday (the remembrance of the Mass of the Lord’s supper) the church bells would ring for the last time. After this service they would remain silent to mourn over Jesus’ death, and -as the kids were told- because they would all fly off to Rome to go and pick up the eggs.
Originally the eggs were real ones that were painted. During the 40 days of lent people were not allowed to eat eggs, but the hens didn’t really stop giving their daily ones, so one of the things people did was paint them. The real eggs only changed into chocolate ones somewhere at the end of the 18th century. On Easter Sunday the church bells arrive back in church from their trip to Italy, where they will chime very loud to celebrate the resurrection, but first they would fly over the houses and throw out the eggs, where the kids would have to look for them in the morning.
In many other countries this story is unthinkable, because they just don’t have this religious background. There the church bells are replaced by the ‘pagan’ easter bunny, who is -together with eggs- the symbol of fertility.
In fact the story of the Easter Bunny is older then the Roman Catholic one. Just like many other Christian Holidays, their date coincides with old pagan holidays and celebrations, and many Christian holidays have pagan influences. Easter is one of them.
The name ‘Easter’ is said to have found its origin in the pagan goddess’s name, Ostara. She is the goddess of fertility and spring, and she is always represented with a hare and an egg. The legend says that the hare used to be a chicken who used to hide her eggs from the goddess, which upset her so that she changed her into a hare who then had to search for the eggs. In old Germanic times the people would offer eggs to this goddess Ostara on the first day of spring. The catholics made the story of the Bells going to Rome up, not only as an explanation to where the eggs come from, but also as an explanation why the church bells didn’t ring between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
It is a great feast, to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, and the end of lent, with lots and lots of chocolate eggs. Although over the years, the shape of the chocolate eggs has often changed into the shape of a hare, the Easter Bunny, carrying a basket…
On the other hand, living in the southern hemisphere, we can’t be celebrating the beginning of spring, as autumn has only just started. So were we must stick to the christian meaning of the eggs, the chocolate, and the Bunny. Because, although this is a mainly catholic country, it is way too far from Rome for the church bells to fly back and forth to Rome in just 3 days…