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Sunday, 31 March 2013

A quick look at Oestre/Easter/Happy Chocolate Day

Okay, technically speaking, the pagan celebration of Oestre (also known as Ostara/Eostre) happened a little over a week ago, on the spring equinox. If you're in the Northern hemisphere, the whole spring thing was probably easy to miss, since it may have happened according to our calendars, but the weather is sulking. I'm pretty sure I got snowed on that day, as well.

It's already pretty well known that most of the Christian calendar was linked early onto Pagan festivals and celebrations. This was pretty smart marketing by the early Church, who found that people might listen to the teachings (especially if the alternative was becoming a crispy critter or repeated cold water dunkings) but, they were still pretty much into the celebratory side of paganism. It was a lot easier to declare certain days Christian, since banning them just led to the early version of illegal street parties, and have people sitting in church instead of being out in the fields and streets having a good time.

When it came to Oestre, or Easter, it really was a pretty good time. There's a reason for all the bunnies and eggs floating around right now; the festival is a celebration of life and fertility, and both rabbits (which are also linked to the moon traditionally, and therefore a symbol of the goddess) and eggs are pretty blatant symbols of both. There were a lot of new babies pitching up nine months down the line after this festival.

Pagan Oestre rituals celebrate life, the renewal of the earth, and a general love of games and benign mischief - like Easter egg hunts. Very early rituals included leaving painted eggs on graves as a symbol of renewal and the cycle of life.

Where did the chocolate come in? According to the Cadbury's site these were first made in Europe in the early 19th century. (Just so you know, that link tortures chocolate lovers by stating the first eggs were solid chocolate. Any one who remembers the horror of discovering those shells were hollow as a child will be shaking their fist at their PC screen.) In the 17th and 18th century, kids were getting egg shaped toys. Personally, I'm pretty happy with the chocolate replacement.