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April 12, 2009

The origins of Easter traditions

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Photo courtesy Stitch

We all know that Easter is an annual Christian and public holiday, but why? And what’s with all the bunnies?

Although it is also a secular holiday, Easter is traditionally a Christian religious feast or festival marking the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, whom Christians believe died to absolve them of their sins roughly 2 000 years ago. Along with Christmas, it is one of the most important days in the Christian calendar.

But many of the Easter traditions, such as Easter eggs and bunnies, have their roots in even older traditions. Some scholars believe that the name Easter is derived from Eastre, an early Germanic goddess of spring and fertility, to whom the month now called April was dedicated. The rabbits and eggs are said to be symbols of fertility associated with the April festival.

In South Africa, Easter usually falls within the school holidays, and working people enjoy a public holiday on the Friday and Monday. Most people use this brief holiday to get together with their families and friends, or just enjoy the last warm days before winter sets in.

The Jewish Pesach or Passover is also celebrated at this time of the year, beginning in 2009 on April 9.

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