Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Eostre!

In case you've been troubled by the seeming disconnect between the Christian holiday of Easter and the fertility imagery (eggs, chicks, bunnies) that is commercially linked to it (an incongruity raised with the usual skewed humor in this week's episode of South Park), the answer lies in the derivation of the holiday's name.

Here's how the Etymology section of the Wikipedia Easter article explains it:

The English name, "Easter", and the German, "Ostern", derive from the name of Germanic Goddess of the Dawn (thus, of spring, as the dawn of the year) - called Ēaster, Ēastre, and Ēostre, in various dialects of Old English. In England, the annual festive time in her honor was in the "Month of Easter" or Ēosturmonath, equivalent to April/Aprilis.
This interpretation is based on the writings of 8th Century historian the Venerable Bede. The fertility imagery certainly synchs up much more with pre-Chrisitan vernal celebrations than a commemoration of the resurrection of Christ. It's interesting to note that the rest of the Western languages use words for the holiday derived from the Hebrew word for Passover -- Pesach -- as many believe the last Supper was in fact a Seder meal.

So, as you bite the head off your next chocolate bunny, think about how you might actually be honoring the Pagan goddess of the dawn.
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