Great Grandmother's Easter

More beautiful vintage cards can be seen at the Greencastle Museum website. 

Art by Thalia Took
Easter time is a unique blend of  Catholic and Pre-Christian traditions all over Europe.  The name of the holiday itself comes from a Germanic goddess, and variations on the name range from Eostre to Ostara. Linguists theorize a Proto-Indo-European word awes, meaning "to shine", which would explain similarities to Greek and Roman dawn goddesses(Eos and Aurora) as well as the minor Indian goddess Ushas.  Whatever the case, at least in Northern Europe, common themes are flowers, hares (the predecessor of the Easter Bunny), and eggs. This linguistic link does not carry over into cultures that speak Latin-based languages, however, where Easter is called La Pasquette, Paques, or Pascua. 

The date of Easter changes each year(unlike stationary holidays, like Christmas) because it falls on the Sunday after the first full moon following the Spring Equinox.  Why this reliance on the lunar calendar?  Because the Council of Nicaea reasoned that Passover, which falls on that new moon, would have come directly before the death of Christ

 So what did our great grandmothers do for Easter?  It depends...while many traditions translate easily to similar American customs, others are very unique. 

There are eggs a-plenty:

Spectacular Swiss Eggs from You Craft Me Up
Romanian Eggs
From Poland

As well as bread and cakes:
Greek Easter Bread, recipe here
Swiss Easter Cake
Hot Cross Buns, a favorite at our house.

In Sweden, little children also dress up as Easter Witches, complete with painted red cheeks and freckles, and go door-to-door for treats, based on a tradition that all the local witches fly over the water to a mountain in Northern Germany the Thursday before Easter for a meeting with the devil (another one of those "huh" moments...some suggest the tradition dates to a rather ugly witch hunt in the 1600's). 

A lovely Victorian Easter Witch
Interested in other strange Easter traditions?  Here's a collection! 

Whether Christian, Pagan, or purely secular, this time of spring is a wonderful time to celebrate new life, and the return of light over darkness.  Happy Easter!


Kjerstin said...

Love these. We do Ukranian and Polish eggs every year (my mom is insanely good)... It's such a nice way to usher in the spring. :)

Jesse (Great Grandmother's Kitchen) said...

That sounds like a lot of fun, Kjerstin! I had a kit for them when I was younger, but it's been ages.

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