While planning my Spring post I decided it might be interesting to explore the origins and legends of Easter and include a few of Passover. Recently John and I were reminiscing about Easter when we were kids. I will weave those remembrances in and share more of myself in the process. My poetry is titled Wondrous Legends, hope you enjoy.
I am Polish, first generation on my Dad's side, second on my Mom's. I grew up with very traditional customs being observed and celebrated. John is second generation Italian on both sides of his family. We share very similar upbringings, each middle children and both born with a sense of adventure with close knit family ties.
Easter is the holiest day of the year for Christians. After 40 days of Lent and a fast it is celebrated by attending Church service followed by a huge feast. Easter is a moveable feast occurring after the Full Moon following the Vernal Equinox on the next Sunday.
Unless it interferes with Passover and then it's the Sunday after. Any Sunday from March 22 - April 25th Easter can be celebrated.
Passover is always on the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox. Passover is the Jewish Spring festival celebrating their liberation from the Israelites 3,300 years ago from Egyptian slavery. Passover lasts 7-8 days from the 15th day of the Hebrew month Nissan (usually April). First night is the Seder, a ritual dinner telling the story of Exodus.
When my son was 2 and I was newly divorced, a year before John entered into our lives and hearts we were invited by the parents of my best friend to share a Passover Seder with them. I had never attended a Seder before but was aware it is a ritual dinner telling the story of Exodus. I spent a mesmerizing evening sharing Jewish customs and Seder foods.
We were instructed to envision Egypt and the Israelites suffering from persecution while leaving to cross the Sea of Reeds, while God parted the water to pass. Seder starts with the reading of the Kiddush over a cup of wine. Each person has 4 cups to drink (small cups) of wine at the Seder. Wine is used because it symbolizes joy and happiness in marking the four great merits while the Israel's were in Exile.
1. They kept their Hebrew names
2. Spoke their own language
3. Remained highly moral
4. Remaining loyal to one another.
Easter for Christians is Resurrection Sunday. We celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The resurrection is the center of the Christian faith. Without Easter there would be no Christianity.
The Easter egg is an ancient fertility symbol of the rising of the Vernal Equinox, Spring meaning rebirth. Many, many years ago Christians would dye Easter eggs Red to symbolize the color of Christ's blood. Orthodox churches abstain from eggs during the fast of lent. To keep them from spoiling they were hard boiled and by coloring them it would bring a touch of Spring indoors.
The tradition of dying Easter eggs has wandered and now kids want dyed eggs to be colorful and fun to resemble their Easter baskets jelly beans!
My Dad's parents owned a Chicken farm just outside of Frenchtown, NJ and Easter always meant lots of eggs to dye. Even my Dads Brother Bruno raised chickens at his and my Aunt Clara's farm, so eggs as a kid were plentiful.
One of my fondest memories on Easter morning was our egg fight with Mom, Dad and my brothers. An egg cracking game with the goal to be the last uncracked contender.
My Grandmother was into natural dying her Easter eggs. I remember she would save up onion skins for months and put them into a nylon stocking that hung in their farmhouse kitchen. Grandma dyed eggs with Beets too, but it was the brown eggs that turned russet from the boiling onion skins I would select for my egg to fight with. Forget the pretty colored pastel eggs, even as a kid I knew the eggs dyed with onions produced harder protected shells.
So did I ever win? Sure, a couple of times. But the fun was always afterwards with my brothers continuing to smash the eggs until they were pulverized bits of shells. Lots of laughter and fun bringing out the competitive nature in our family. John's family did not engage in an Easter egg fight and up until research for this post I thought it might be a Polish tradition.
But live and learn ... So what are some of the countries who partake in the Easter egg fight? India, Serbia, Netherlands, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece and the Jewish culture to name a few.
Our favorite Italian Easter specialties are the sweet breads and Ricotta cheese pie.
There are also Hot cross buns and sweet breads marked with an X to symbolize the cross. The breads are risen breads with the eggs baked in. Yeast sweet breads were perhaps a desire for Easter traditions to be different than Passover which is unleavened bread.
The photo is of a Polish bukka. This is what I grew up eating each Easter. But as John and I over the years joined our traditions together we now eat both. For Easter every year until Mom passed would bake a Lamb cake in a mold. Mom would zone out in a inspired coconut haze and with green food dye color the shredded coconut for the grass under the Lamb. The cake recipe was a yummy moist lemon pound cake. The Lamb was iced with buttercream and then Mom applied it's wool of shredded White coconut. It wasn't a Lamb yet until Mom cut a Black jelly bean in half for his nose and pushed raisins in for his eyes. Flowers would be piped out of a pastry bag to adorn the Lamb's neck.
I miss those cakes and asked Kevin just last week what ever became of Moms Lamb mold. He's looking for it and hopefully there will be annual Easter Lamb cake once again.
As a kid we would have Easter dinner with my Dads brother Bruno and Aunt Clara. Kielbasa and grated fresh horseradish would start the meal. My Uncle Bruno would break out in a sweat a day earlier grating the root. The years it was extra hot Uncle Bruno would mix it with beet juice to take the heat down a notch. The Polish call the horseradish Chrzan. We also would eat horseradish with our Easter Ham. 67 percent of Americans serve Ham on Easter. John remembers both Leg of Lamb and Ham for his Easter meals.
Curly Lambeau was lonely ... Penny White of Angelsdoor blog created both Curly and little Dixie with a dark chocolate face and don't you think they make an adorable couple? Penny named her and I added Louise, so meet little sweet Dixie Louise.
The large metal silhouette of the urn is by Rosemary of Villabarnes blog and etsy store.
Close up of Dixie Louise.
Our Simon when he was a kitten, took a catnap on Easter Sunday on top our antique Senufo African Stool and surprisingly he woke up a bunny rabbit.
Inside my French Ballet theatre from Burlap Luxe I've staged a Easter Bunny production.
The Easter Bunny Rabbit is an interesting legend from the 1500's. Rabbits and Hares were popular medieval church art. Back then belief was that Hares and Rabbits were Hermaphrodites who could reproduce without losing its virginity. An association with the Virgin Mary. Eggs are fertility symbols of the ancient past, symbolizing the rising fertility of the Vernal Equinox.
The tradition of the Easter bunny appears in drawings often in clothes as he carries colored eggs in a basket along with candy and toys for good girls and boys. The American belief in the Easter Bunny was first introduced in Pennsylvania by the German settlers.
Centuries ago the Northwestern European folklore had the Easter Bunny as a Hare. The legend tells of only good children receiving a gift of colored eggs in nests that they made in their Easter bonnets during the start of Eastertide.
An adorable bunny on a swing and urn silhouette I taped miniature tulips to. (Links at bottom of my post).
The Polish have a tradition on Holy Saturday called "Swieconka" which means the blessing of the Easter baskets.
As a child my Mom would make up our straw Easter baskets with green Easter grass and lots of jelly beans as a filler. I have no affection for jelly beans, nope not at all. Every year a milk chocolate bunny, a chick, a White chocolate Lamb and a cross and an chocolate butter cream egg. Generous yes, but all but the Bunny were small. When we were kids all our Easter chocolates were solid.
John remembers receiving a very similar Easter basket of treats. John was one of those kids that bite the Bunnies ears off first. YIKES! I would ask my Dad to break my bunny into pieces because I couldn't bring myself to biting off the tail or ears!
It wasn't until I became a Mother and assembled my son Chris's Easter basket I realized the symbolism and love my Mom put into my brothers and my baskets. When my son was young Cadbury eggs with the gooey yolk centers and Jelly Bellies were very popular, especially with Chris. Chocolate Bunnies and a Lamb plus Cross were always part of his basket along with a scattering of car toys. As strong as my indifference to Jelly beans is my son loved Jelly Bellies and every Easter he'd engage in a bean tasting of each flavor following with his review as if they were a fine reserved wine.
Funny with each flavor he would change his reviews! Cherished memories we hold precious and dear.
"What is the real purpose behind the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus? They seem like greater steps toward faith and imagination, each with a payoff. Like cognitive training exercises."
There are many intriguing stories told in life's wondrous picture book,
Most have developed out of religious customs and deserve a further look.
The legend of the Easter Bunny originated in 13th century pre-Christian Germany a very long, long time ago...
And ever since Easter Bunny's been laying eggs and hiding them in the garden the legend has been told.
A Bunny laying eggs in a garden, oh my, such an amazing concept and magical power!
Bunny hiding eggs amongst the Spring flowers for an Easter egg hunt to delight children for hours.
Magicians pull a rabbit out of their hat and we all know it as an idiom - yes but of course.
But throughout all these years believing Easter Bunny lays eggs the Christian legend still does endorse.
Well without doubt "Believe" to me has always been the most magical word in my active imagination.
The egg roll on the White House lawn on Easter Monday started when Dolly Madison made her proclamation.
Kids enjoy a romp on the lawn seeking out eggs and partaking in the egg roll,
while adults watch and cheer and enjoy a pleasurable Springtime outdoor stroll.
Legend is written the Easter Bunny evaluates children's behavior and rewards good girls and boys.
Sounds like the original legend of Christmas with Jolly old Saint Nick who delivers toys.
It's said if you want to raise intelligent children read Fairytales to them which I believe with all my heart,
There is a artful joy weaving together mythical stories and knowing it will enable our children to mature smart.
Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, Santa Claus all very creative legends for both young and old.
Never loss sight of the magical allure of these wonderful Fairytales throughout generations being told.
I prefer Easter eggs dyed naturally, it is just my personal choice. If you would like to dye naturally below Is a guide from Apartment Therapy's kitchen blog from last year. I grew up with both, eggs dyed with natural vegetables and food colored eggs. In recent years John and I dye naturally. If you've never tried it you will be amazed at the beauty of non-toxic naturally dyes eggs.
Naturally-Dyed Easter Eggs
Per cup of water use:
- 1 cup chopped purple cabbage — makes blue on white eggs, green on brown eggs
- 1 cup red onion skins — makes lavender or red eggs
- 1 cup yellow onion skins — makes orange on white eggs, rusty red on brown eggs
- 1 cup shredded beets — makes pink on white eggs, maroon on brown eggs
- 2 tablespoons ground turmeric — makes yellow eggs
- 1 bag Red Zinger tea — makes lavender eggs
→ Add 1 tablespoon white vinegar to every cup of strained dye liquid
→ For every dozen eggs, plan on using at least 4 cups of dye liquid
Bunny on swing - healoom from her etsy shop
Urn in theatre and large urn in Curly and Dixie's photo http://www.villabarnes.com
Curly and Dixie wool needle felted Lambs and Brown Bunny in theatre Penny White
French Ballet Theatre, Doré Callaway of http://burlapluxe.blogspot.com and her etsy store.
Photos 3,4,6,8,9,14 and 16 - Google image # 5 source is Bon Appétit
All others taken by me-Vera
Blessings to you during Eastertide and Passover.