The Pagan & Folk Origins of Easter Traditions

a little history of the season from The Witches Almanac Issue 28:

Easter period in the Christian calendar (is) set each year by the ancient calculation that it is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox. The celebration retains many of the pagan elements of the old spring rites. For instance, on Good Friday people eat hot-cross buns, which originated with small cakes used by the Greeks, Romans and Saxons as sacrificial offerings at the spring festival. In ancient Rome a small cake with an equal-arm-cross decoration was offered to Diana, the goddess of the moon and hunting. This pagan origin is reflected in the popular belief that preserved pieces of hot-cross bun can be used as a protective charm against fire or for healing purposes.

Easter eggs also have a pagan source. It was a widespread pre-Christian custom to give painted eggs as a gift for fertility at the spring festival. The egg in ancient times was a well-known symbol of the life principle. In many cultures Creation was believed to have hatched from the Cosmic Egg laid by either a goose or a mythical or legendary bird. Eggs, especially golden ones laid by a golden goose as in fairy tales, were also symbols of the sun. On Easter morning they were rolled down hillsides in imitation of the solar orb’s progressions through the sky. A folk belief also discloses that at sunrise on Easter Sunday the sun can be seen to dance with joy. In folklore hares were supposed to lay eggs to give birth to their young. They were also the sacred animal of the moon goddess Eostre, the Saxon deity who gave her name to Easter. This is possibly the origin of the Easter Bunny, really a hare.

The Sacred Ring: The Pagan Origins of British Folk Festivals and Custom, by Michael Howard – as reprinted in The Witches’ Almanac Issue 28

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