Activities For Kids Whilst You Explore Easter’s History
This coming holiday, involve your children directly in the meaning of Easter with these ideas for decorating eggs.
3 Great ways with boiled eggs for children:
- Tissue paper dyed eggs – hard boil your eggs, dip them in water so that they are wet, use little squares of brightly coloured tissue paper (have a selection); lay squares one at a time on the egg, allow to overlap; once ready spray with water, set in a bowl to dry; the tissue paper will fall off, but will leave pretty stains on the eggs – easy to do!
- Crayon dyed eggs – hard boil your eggs, draw pictures or designs with a white wax crayon on the egg, dip in dye, leave to dry – the dye ignores the crayon marks.
- Marble eggs – hard boil eggs, mix a store bought dye, add 1 Tbsp of vegetable oil to the colour, dye as the instructions indicate; the oil will create a marbleized effect.
WHAT IS EASTER – the history lesson
What is Easter really a celebration of? For it is at once religious and ceremonial.
The Christian festival, also known as the Pasch, celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ on the third day after he was crucified. As a religious ceremony it starts with forty days of Lent, prayer and penance, followed by the Holy Week, which contains Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. The whole fifty-day festival period ends with Pentecost Sunday, or Resurrection Sunday.
It’s also a festival that has no fixed date. Have you noticed that? One year to the next it changes. That’s because Easter coincides with the first Sunday after the full moon following the March equinox.
This falls anywhere between 22 March and 25 April (we won’t go into the debate here about the difference between the Western and Orthodox Easter dates, for the respective churches use different calendars).
This emphasis on the March equinox brings us to the pagan festival of Easter, or Eostre, after the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring – for the spring equinox was celebrated long before the birth of Christianity.
Early pagan festivals celebrated the ‘crossing’ of the sun through the vernal equinox (spring) and the resurrection of the sun as days began to lengthen (true of the northern hemisphere).
This ancient pagan ritual celebrates the life-renewal time of every year, when winter passes and the sun is ‘born again’ – history is full of stories similar to Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection:
- The Phrygian sun and fertility god, Attis, was hung every year on a tree, dying and rising on March 24th and 25th – a celebration that was also celebrated in Rome.
- Adonis, a Syrian god, died and rose again and was celebrated at Easter time.
- The Sumerian goddess Inanna, or Ishtar, was hung naked on a stake. She was later resurrected and rose from the underworld.
- Horus, the Egyptian god, was born on 25 December, and became the symbol of life and rebirth.
- Followers of Mithras, born on Christmas day, also celebrated the spring equinox.
- The goddess Cybele was a healer, and often associated with Rhea, mother of Zeus and Demeter. Cybele’s lover Attis was a god of ever-reviving vegetation, born of a virgin, died, and was reborn every year in a spring festival that was celebrated, rather ironically, on today’s Vatican Hill.
The church thus adapted an already oft celebrated festival for the celebration of the dead and risen Christ. The early days of Christianity, as you can imagine, saw some rather irate Cybele cult followers and quarrels ensued over whose god was true, and whose an imitation.
Christianity adopted many of the ancient pagan practises – hot cross buns (the cross symbolises the cross on which Christ is crucified but is also symbolic of the constellation of the southern cross), easter bunnies are a direct link to Eostre, the goddess, whose symbol was a rabbit or hare, and the brightly painted eggs were said to represent the sunlight of spring or were a primitive symbol of fertility.
Whichever way you choose to celebrate it, Easter is a vivid and colourful time, the passing of one season and the coming of another. A celebration and a reverence for life and the natural cycle of things.