Happy Easter 2016
Way before Christianity Easter was celebrated by the pagans as festival of renewal and birth. It took place in the early spring and it honored the pagan Saxon goddess Eastre. In fact the name was derived from the pagan name 'Eostre', the name of the Great Mother Goddess of the Saxons, Goddess of Spring that is also an important symbol of fertility, in Northern Europe.
Legend claims that this mystical goddess found a wounded bird and turned it into a hare so it could survive the winter. When this very same hare found it could lay eggs it made a gift of its eggs to the goddess who had protected him. And so the tradition of the Easter hare, or bunny as it became later known, was born.
The Spring Equinox (which occurs around the time of Easter) is celebrated by Wiccans, modern-day 'neopagans' - it is one of their most important 'Sabbats' or holy days, and is a time when the fertility of the land and the balance of day and night are celebrated.
When the early missionaries converted the Saxons to Christianity the pagan celebration of spring, since it fell around the same time Christ's resurrection from the dead, was merged to become a celebration known as Easter.
Easter has high significance for the Christians. It is celebrated for the meaning of Easter symbolizes Jesus Christ's resurrection from the dead, therefore his victory over death.
The concept of 'rebirth', an important theme in the Christian Easter celebration, is common to many religions. Other major world religions such as Islam do not observe Easter but it is closely tied to the Jewish festival of Passover, which falls around the same time as Easter.
Another shared tradition between Christianity and Judaism is the significance of eggs at Easter/Passover - hard-boiled eggs are served at Passover and are used to reinforce the idea of rebirth.
In the beginning when Christians gave eggs as offerings and gifts at Easter time, they used birds' eggs. They were painted bright colors to echo the vibrancy of the colors of spring after the darkness of winter. In the UK and Europe early Easter eggs were usually duck, hen or goose eggs. These were later replaced by artificial eggs until eventually, as chocolate became a more widely available foodstuff, the first chocolate eggs began to appear in the early 1800s. The fashion of exchanging chocolate eggs at Easter quickly spread across the world and is still widely recognized today.