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Ed Said - Holy days or holidays?


dadHot cross buns and Easter eggs. What do they mean to you? Probably very little except it’s generally the only time of the year we get to pig out on them. Mostly they become an extra in the food basket that replenishes our larder for the long weekend, that we take on our Easter holiday to the bach or on the four-day fishing trip. I’m quite happy imbibing in either or both though ironically this past week I have had neither. 

There is nothing stopping our home bakers laying up a batch of hot cross buns any time of the year. Likewise chocolate eggs are available all year round. Egg trails can happen at any time to amuse kids – birthdays, sleepovers and the like. 

They have become Easter customs but what do they signify? Very loosely, the buns are said to signify the end of Lent (fasting period) with the cross a symbol of the crucifiction of Christ.  The egg is a reference to the new life that is the resurrection. It has also been associated with pagan festivals celebrating spring, though we are heading into autumn so that is hardly relevant to us here in New Zealand. 

The mystery of this whole charade though is the Easter bunny. Where did he/she come from? For Christians, there is no reference in the Bible to rabbits. Apparently back in the 1500s a story emerged about a rabbit laying eggs, possibly German or Russian. It was still a symbol of spring through its prolific breeding ability but it didn’t then, and still doesn’t, lay eggs, though it has become traditionally associated with Easter and so remains today. 

Back in 590 AD the Anglo Saxons revered the Goddess Eostre – the Goddess of fertility. I’m guessing her name to be the forerunner somehow of the word oestrogen though this was a long time before the ‘bunny’ figure emerged though it just illustrates how things have changed and diverged over time with the Christian and pagan Festivals becoming intertwined as views, beliefs and interpretations changed. 

Being a farm boy from the 50s my most endearing memories of rabbits were going on a bunny shoot with my Dad, learning how to skin them with a pocket knife, then enjoying them in a stew my Mother used to make. Most nourishing and tasting not unlike chicken. I’m sure many of our older readers will have similar memories.

One has to wonder how many of our much-loved nursery rhymes, fairy tales and fables have come about and evolved over the centuries, as too a number of originally factual reports of explorers adventures and legends which have been told and embellished with each generation, many to suit changing social standards. Draw a similarity to Christmas if you like. Excessive food and drink, expensive trinkets, toys and presents we can ill-afford in many cases and, in the middle of our hot summer, painting our windows with fake snow. 

If you are a believer you will no doubt follow the celebrations of both times with the degree of reverence they deserve for their Christian significance. One youngster when questioned was adamant he knew the significance of Christmas: “It’s about the birth of Santa Claus of course,“ he said, with a fair degree of certainty. 

For some these are ‘holy days’, but for the majority they are just ‘holidays’ and when over it’s grizzling about going back to work rather than feel any refreshment of mind, body or soul. Funny beasts us humans.
Just my thoughts.

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