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Easter Excitement

Friday, April 03, 2015

Easter Sunday is this weekend, but we’re sure you’ve already indulged in a few chocolate bunnies and marzipan eggs! The treasure hunts, Easter brunches and festivities make it a celebration that children and adults love in equal part, but that’s not all there is to it. Dev Goswami & Yamini Walia tell you about the history and significance of the festival, bring you some fun facts and also tell you how to throw your own Easter hunt

Seeing its significance
Easter celebrates Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead, but unlike other festivals, there’s no specific date set for it. Easter is observed on the first full moon after the spring equinox (one of the two days of the year when the sun crosses the plane of earth’s equator; on this occasion, day and night are of almost equal length), which usually occurs somewhere around March 20-21. So, Easter can be observed on any day between March 22 to April 25. Here are a few facts that you should know about the festival:

  • Easter is about more than just the resurrection of Christ. In fact, it’s really an entire season that celebrates different aspects of the life of Jesus Christ, instead of a one-day celebration.
  • Lent, the 40-day fasting period that is observed in the weeks leading up to Easter, is a time of reflection and penance, while the Friday preceding Easter, known as Good Friday, marks the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
  • The Holy Saturday, the day after Good Friday, celebrates Christ’s transition from crucifixion to resurrection, while a 50-day period after Easter, known as Eastertide, is a celebration of his ascension into Heaven.
  • The exact origins of this festival are unknown — however, a few historians have managed to trace the symbols and traditions that are associated with the festival to a pre-Christian era.
  • A popular theory is that Easter is named after a Teutonic (a word used for ancient Germans) goddess of spring and fertility named Oestre. Interestingly, the word for female hormones, oestrogen, is also believed to be derived from her name.
  • Another theory traces the origins  to the Spanish word Pascua, derived from the Greek and Latin Pascha or Pasch. Pascaha is the Jewish festival Passover, which commemorates the exodus of ancient Israelites’ from Egyptian slavery. The story goes that Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection followed his visit to Jerusalem, where he celebrated Passover. 

What came first — the bunny or the egg?
Have you wondered what the bunny and egg have to do with Easter? If you’ve read The Holy Bible, you will known that there is no mention of an Easter bunny or painted eggs. Also, bunnies do not lay eggs — even though several legends argue otherwise. So, what do these two popular Easter symbols have to do with the festival? Well, not much. The connection comes from what both the rabbit and the egg symbolise — fertility. Rabbits are known to be prolific procreators and they were also the symbol of the ancient, pre-Christian, Teutonic goddess, Oestre. Spring (Easter can be seen as a spring festival) is a period that symbolises new life and birth, and this is where the rabbit and the egg come in.

Easter bunnies and eggs were first documented in the 1600s. Some time during this century, the first story about rabbits who lay eggs and hide them in gardens was published. These legends were then taken to the United States when German immigrants settled in the country. The legend of egg-laying bunnies is what gave rise to the tradition of making nests for rabbits to lay eggs in — and, as you may have guessed, these nests are what we see today as decorated baskets full of colourful eggs. 

While most theories about the Easter bunny are related to it being a symbol of goddess Oestre, there is another reason that eggs are connected to this festival. Apart from signifying Jesus’ resurrection, eggs are also believed to be one of the foods that were forbidden during Lent. Because of this, the theory goes, people used to decorate and paint eggs in order to mark the end of the season of penance and to celebrate Easter.     

Throw your own Easter egg hunt
Easter Egg treasure hunts may have been created for children, but we all know that adults love them too! While most establishments will organise hunts this time of year, there’s nothing quite like organising your own. It’s a great way to add a personalised touch and a fun element to your weekend, whether you celebrate the festival or not. After all, who doesn’t want to find a handful (or basketful in this case) of goodies?! If you want to throw your own Easter egg hunt, but are at a loss about what to do, use this simple guide.

Time and Date
Before throwing any kind of party, the time and date are the most essential things to consider. Remember that on Easter, most of your Christian friends will have their own family dinners and gatherings to attend. So, selecting a day leading up to Easter (or one after) is a better idea. While you don’t have to follow this, the most common time for hunts is late morning or afternoon — however, for a city like ours, we think that a late afternoon or early evening egg hunt makes more sense.

Age groups
Since Easter hunt is a family event, you can expect people of different ages to participate. So, when you’re planning the hunt, keep the ages of your guests in mind. If a majority of your guest list includes young children, you need to make sure that you hide the goodies in places that they can reach easily. For toddlers, spreading the eggs out on the ground in a lawn makes more sense. However, if your guests are predominately adults or teenagers, the entire world is a hiding place — think, trees, bushes, or even car tyres! 

Location of the hunt
Your Easter hunt will only be a success if you choose the perfect location. Considering the space issues in our city, it’s a good idea to organise the hunt in a park near your home — unless of course, you’re blessed with an expansive garden or lawn in your building or society. If you’re determined to organise a hunt inside your house, make sure that you move all your furniture out of the way in order to minimise the risk of injuries. Also, remember to hide the eggs in a way that enables your guests to find them without messing up your home.

Set boundaries
Irrespective of your location, is it’s indoors or outdoors, setting boundaries is essential. This is important, not only to ensure safety, but also to keep everyone in the same place. For example, you don’t want children destroying your bedroom, when the eggs are only hidden in your living room.

Make a list
Imagine being left wondering where you hid all the eggs just half an hour into the hunt — it’s quite possible! So, you will be better off if you make a list of all the locations where you’ve placed the eggs. Not only will this list help you to create better clues, it will also come in handy if you need to direct children to some of the really well-hidden eggs. 

Make sure there are prizes
No one likes to participate in a competition that has no rewards. So, make sure that you arrange for a few prizes for your participants. For example, you can paint a bunny on a small jar, place a few chocolates inside it and hand it to the winner. But, don’t forget that the person who finds the least number of eggs will require motivation too! Make sure there is a consolation prize for them.

Fun Facts
Before preparing for your Easter celebrations, we have some interesting facts about Easter that you should know about. Take a look.

Expensive deal
What would you say about an egg that was covered in diamonds? In 2007, one such egg was sold for a whopping `60 crore. Wonder what’s so special about it? Every hour, a cockerel made of jewels pops up over the top of the egg, flaps its wings four times, nods its head three times and makes a crowing noise! Wow!

Elephant egg
No we’re not referring to an egg laid by an elephant, but to an Easter chocolate egg that is even bigger than one! Needless to say, it’s the tallest Easter egg ever made — it’s 10.39 metres tall  and weighs a whopping 7,200kg! It was created in Italy, in 2011.

Easter pretzels
If you enjoy eating pretzels, you will be thrilled to know that pretzels were associated with Easter because the twists of the pretzel were thought to resemble human arms crossed prayer. Interesting or just plain weird? We’re a little confused too.

Throw the egg
In medieval times, an egg-throwing festival was held in churches. The priest would throw a hard-boiled egg at one of the choir boys, from where it would be tossed from one choir boy to the next. When the clock struck 12, whoever held the egg was the winner and got to keep the egg. Talk about medieval entertainment!

Historic jellybeans
Jellybeans were first made in the United States of America by Boston candy maker William Schrafft, who ran advertisements urging people to send jellybeans to soldiers fighting in the Civil War. Today, Americans consume over 16 million jellybeans on Easter — the amount is enough to circle the globe three times over!

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