By Sameea Jonnud, Aldershot, UK
In the weeks leading up to Easter, traditional symbols associated with this event take over this holiday season. Bakeries will promote hot cross buns, either traditionally spiced or newer chocolate versions. Chocolate makers produce chocolate eggs in varying sizes as well as chocolate bunnies. Promotions and cards are displayed with these symbols to get everyone into the spirit of Easter.
Easter is a festival and holiday that takes place every springtime in remembrance of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ; so why are the images associated with it more often of chocolate eggs and bunnies?
It is traditional for chocolate Easter eggs and bunnies to be given as presents on Easter Sunday. Both represent new life as it is springtime when nature renews, plants begin to bloom and birds and animals produce babies. Some Christians also celebrate the new life of Jesus after he was put on the cross and, according to their beliefs, died and came back to life.
Further back in time dyed eggs were used as part of the rituals of the Babylonian religions. The Pagans also gifted painted eggs during their spring festivals. So actually none of these customs have anything to do with Christianity or the Bible as these traditions were adopted from the Pagan beliefs and festivals
Hot cross buns are popular as a traditional snack eaten on Good Friday, the day Christians believe that Jesus (as) was put on the cross. Hot cross buns actually stemmed from a pagan festival in which the Saxon fertility goddess, Eostre, sacrificed an ox and placed the horns in the form of a cross. This cross became a symbol of the season and was carved into breads made around that time. The cross represented the four quarters of the moon which was the heavenly body associated with the goddess. As Christianity spread throughout Europe, buns were made in the traditional method, but the cross began instead to symbolize the crucifix of Jesus.
The cross is a symbol much visible around us, and not only at Easter time. Churches often have crosses inside and out, crucifix pendants are worn as jewellery and there are also many cross tombstones in church cemeteries.
But what is the origin of the cross symbol? The obvious answer is the cross on which the Prophet Jesus (as) was crucified. Jesus was said to have carried the cross on his back to the crucifixion site and was then nailed onto it and left to die. Christians believe he did actually die on the cross and was then taken down and put in a tomb. After three days they believe Jesus returned from the dead and rose to heaven. As this story is such a cornerstone of Christian faith the cross has become an important symbol to Christians.
However, like so many other Christian symbols, the cross actually has pagan origins from before the time of Christianity. Cross symbols have been used from ancient times and have links with the sun, the moon and fire; the history of areas such as Scandinavia, Babylon, India and Egypt feature them. Thus we find that like so many other symbols the cross was initially used by pagans and later found its way into the Christian faith.
So when you see any of these symbols of Easter you can remember where they originated from and what links they actually have with the festival of Easter and with Jesus. After all it is ironic that rather than a Christian background even the origin of the name Easter came from the pagan goddess Eostre.