NATURE NOTES - An egg-cellent Easter

WELL it’s nearly Easter again and the Workhouse Easter Egg Hunt with the family will be as mad as usual with complaints about clues being too difficult!

Then there are the presents that the Easter Bunny will be leaving for the youngest - the end result will be lots of Easter eggs to scoff after lunch!

So how did the Easter Bunny come about? An important connection can be found exclusively with the hare, which unlike the rabbit is born with his eyes open. The Egyptians called the hare Un, which meant open, to open, the opener.

Un also meant period. The hare as “opener” symbolized the new year at Easter; and fertility and the beginning of new life within the young. In ancient Egypt, the rabbit was also recognized as a symbol of fertility and renewal.

This belief spread to the Greeks and then to the Romans who shared it with the rest of Europe. Later, the Celts and other early

European groups celebrated the festival of Eastre, a goddess of the dawn associated with springtime.

Her symbol was the rabbit, the most fertile animal and a symbol of new life.

Many people think that the modern feast of Easter developed from springtime feasts to honor Easter.

During the Middle Ages, the rabbit became associated with chicken eggs, since both were symbols of fertility and rebirth in the spring.

The bunny as an Easter symbol seems to have it’s origins in Germany, where it was first mentioned in German writings in the 1500s.

The first edible pastry and sugar Easter bunnies were made in Germany during the early 1800s and pretty soon caught on throughout Europe.

Easter has a similar history, before the egg became closely entwined with the Christian Easter, it was honored during many rite-of-Spring festivals.

The Romans, Gauls, Chinese, Egyptians and Persians all cherished the egg as a symbol of the universe. From ancient times eggs were dyed, exchanged and shown reverence.

In Pagan times the egg represented the rebirth of the earth. The long, hard winter was over; the earth burst forth and was reborn just as the egg miraculously burst forth with life. The egg, therefore, was believed to have special powers.

It was buried under the foundations of buildings to ward off evil; pregnant young Roman women carried an egg on their persons to foretell the sex of their unborn children; French brides stepped upon an egg before crossing the threshold of their new homes.

With the advent of Christianity the symbolism of the egg changed to represent, not nature’s rebirth, but the rebirth of man.

Christians embraced the egg symbol and likened it to the tomb from which Christ rose.

Decorating and colouring eggs for Easter was the custom in England during the Middle Ages.

The household accounts of Edward I, for the year 1290, recorded an expenditure of 18pence for 450 eggs to be gold-leafed and coloured for Easter gifts.