Guest Author - Lisa Shea
Colored eggs have been a sign of spring for more than 2,000 years. Just why does a bird's egg symbolize the arrival of Spring and of Easter?
Man has always been fascinated with the egg, and with the new life that formed within it. Long before man understood the workings of the womb, he could pick up a round egg and know that a baby bird was forming within it, and would hatch out into a new life.
Many early cultures felt that the world was born out of a gigantic egg, and each spring colored eggs would be exchanged to celebrate the world being reborn again as the flowers bloomed and animals bore their young. The Persians and Egyptians practiced colored egg exchange long before Christianity came along. Note that these cultures didn't have their year start in the dead of winter! Instead, for them each new year began on what we now call March 21st, when the world awoke to spring and warmth.
In fact the very name of "Easter" is based on the goddess Oestar, who is the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and rebirth. Oestar was also spelled "Easter". Missionaries to Europe found it easier to convert the locals when the missionaries incorporated existing traditions into the new beliefs. Thus Easter also became the name for the springtime celebrations of Christianity.
The rebirth of spring and the rebirth of Jesus Christ coincided nicely, meaning that many celebrations already taking place were smoothly brought into the Christian tradition. Christians quickly incorporated the widespread colored egg practices into their own Easter traditions.
Perhaps the most famous of the colored egg decorations are the "Pisanki" of the Polish and Ukrainian cultures. These fabulously decorated eggs have intricate designs that are passed down from generation to generation.
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Many wonder how Bunnies got to become involved with a bird's egg. Obviously, rabbits don't lay eggs! Most historians point out that spring is all about fertility, and the bunny is one of the most obviously over-fertile animals that people know of. Secondly, the arrival of Easter is tied to the full moon, and the rabbit is the symbol of the full moon in most cultures. While people in the US see the "Man in the Moon", many other cultures see a rabbit when they look at the moon's face. Finally, the goddess Oestar had an earthly form which was ... the rabbit!
So for all of these reasons, the Easter Bunny has become tied to the spring celebration and to the colored eggs that have always accompanied it.