By Jane Stevenson in The Conversation.
There’s a lot of confusion about Easter – not least because this most important of all Christian festivals moves around so much from year to year, decided by a complex set of calculations based on the vernal equinox and the phase of the moon. Easter symbols – eggs, bunnies, lambs and the rest – give the festivities an air of pre-Christian paganism.
So where do the origins of Easter and the rituals observed by so many – whether Christian or not – really lie?
The first mention of Eostre is in the eighth century, in The Venerable Bede’s frustratingly cryptic account of the native Anglo-Saxon calendar in De Temporum Ratione (On the Reckoning of Time). The Anglo-Saxon equivalent of April called Eostremonath is named for the goddess Eostre – but we only know about Eostre via Bede’s writings and the only thing he tells us about her is that “feasts were celebrated” in her honour. So, if modern Easter is frequently a festival of overeating, this has tradition on its side.
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