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The Easter we celebrate today is a combination1 of different traditions. Partly, it comes from old festivals2 to celebrate Spring. And partly it comes from the Christian celebration of the rebirth3 of Jesus Christ.
Most people agree that the word “Easter” comes from the Anglo-Saxon4 Goddess Eastre, a symbol of Spring. It is easy to see how “Eastre time” became “Easter time”.
As a chief Christian festival, Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the 1st day of Spring. It can be as early as March 22, or as late as April 25! Many dates of the Christian5 calendar are dependent on Easter.
The celebrations of Easter have many customs and legends that have nothing to do with Christianity6. Of all the symbols associated7 with Easter, the egg, the symbol of richness8 and new life, is the most important. The customs and traditions of using eggs have been associated with Easter for centuries.
Originally, Easter eggs were painted with bright colors to represent the sunlight of spring and were used in Easter-egg rolling contests or given as gifts. After they were colored and printed with various designs, the eggs were exchanged by lovers and romantic admirers. In the Middle Ages, eggs were traditionally given at Easter to the servants. In Germany, eggs were given to children along with other Easter gifts.
Different cultures have developed their own ways of decorating9 Easter eggs. Deep red colored eggs, to honor the blood of Christ, are exchanged in Greece. In parts of Germany and Austria green eggs are used on Thursday of the Holy Week10.
In Germany and other countries eggs used for cooking were not broken, but the contents were removed by making a hole from the end of each egg with a needle and blowing the contents into a bowl. The hollow eggs were dyed and hung from trees during the Easter Week. The Armenians11 would decorate hollow eggs with pictures of Christ, the Virgin Mary12, and other religious designs.
As with the Easter Rabbit and the holiday itself, the Easter Egg predates13 the Christian holiday of Easter. The exchange of eggs in the springtime is a custom that was centuries old when Easter was first celebrated by Christians.
From the earliest times, the egg was a symbol of rebirth in most cultures. Eggs were often wrapped14 in gold leaf or, if you were a peasant, colored brightly by boiling them with the leaves or petals15 of certain flowers.
Today, children hunt colored eggs and place them in Easter baskets along with the modern version of real Easter eggs—those made of plastic or chocolate candy.
Easter Egg Games
Eggs play an important part in Easter sports. The Romans celebrated the Easter season by running races on an oval16 track and giving eggs as prizes. Two traditional Easter egg games are the Easter Egg Hunt and the Easter Egg Roll.
On Easter morning, the children of the house join in a search to locate the eggs that the Easter Rabbit had hidden while they were asleep. Sometimes prizes of candy are awaiting the child finding the most eggs.
Easter egg hunts are also part of a community's celebration of the holiday. The eggs are hidden in public places and the children of the community are invited to find the eggs.
The rules of an Easter Egg Roll are to see who can roll an egg the greatest distance or can make the roll without breaking it, usually down a grassy17 hillside or slope18.
Maybe the most famous egg rolling takes place on the White House Lawn19 in America. Hundreds of children come with baskets filled with brightly decorated eggs and roll them down the famous lawn, hoping the President of the United States is watching the fun.
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