No, there’s no punch line… just an interesting story that weaves them all together to create a festival of rebirth that we call Easter. Peter Stone celebrates the spring season with a tribute to this deeply spiritual holiday with a beautiful array of sterling silver crosses—and pays tribute to the fun traditions of Easter with this exploration of their origin and meaning.
Easter is a Christian holiday that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Three days after the crucifixion (Good Friday), mourners went to his tomb to collect his body and found that it was not there. They were greeted by an angel who announced his return from death, “He is Risen.” The cross, being the traditional symbol of the crucifixion, is tied intimately to the origin of Easter, and bears mute testament to the Christian beliefs that surround this spring holiday.
Interestingly, hot cross buns (a cake or biscuit that are traditionally eaten during Eastertide in some areas) also derive their name from the cross of the crucifixion, and share the symbology of the traditional Christian cross.
Eggs are less obviously related to the origin of Easter, yet tied inextricably to the traditional celebrations that mark the holiday. In ancient pagan times, the egg was a symbol of the rebirth of the earth that occurs in spring. The first embellished eggs originated in Eastern Europe. Called “pysanka,” (origin: “to write”) they were elaborately decorated with beeswax to celebrate the renewal of the season. The art spread across the continent and evolved, and celebrants eventually used paint or dye to color the eggs in the bright colors of spring. With the advent of Christianity, the symbolism of the egg was subtly altered to reflect the rebirth of man, rather than the rebirth of nature. The egg was likened to the tomb from which Christ rose. Early Christians chose red as the primary color of their eggs to represent the Resurrection.
As with so many of our modern holidays, Easter was superimposed on a previous pagan holiday, the celebration of the spring equinox. The conversion of the masses to Christianity required that some compromises be made, and by combining holidays and adapting traditions, the Christian missionaries were able to appease the pagan population. The Easter egg is an example of that compromise, but so is the very name of the holiday: Easter.
The Pagan celebration of the spring equinox was held in honor of the Mother Goddess Eostre (origin: “Eastre” for “Spring”). Superimposing the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ on this already-established festival was ideal for the Christian missionaries, and adopting the name Easter for the newly merged holiday was simplicity itself.
Another correlation between the ancient pagan holiday and the modern day celebration is the prominence of rabbits in the festival. The Goddess Eostre was legendarily attended by animal companions— hares, of course. Yet, the legend of Eostre is just that… legend. Only one written account of her existence can be found, and that has been questioned by scholars and scientists. The true significance of the inclusion of hares in the Easter celebration is their connection with spring and fecundity and rebirth… all of which were key concepts of the early pagan holiday. Looking even further into the past, rabbits were symbols of life and renewal in ancient Egyptian culture. It can be argued that the “Easter Bunny” existed long before there was such a thing as “Easter.”
Whether you enjoy the ancient art of “egg-writing” or uphold the fiction of the Easter Bunny and his candy-filled baskets for your little ones, it’s important to remember the holy story of resurrection that Easter commemorates. With the uplifting cross collections at Peter Stone, you can show off your spiritual side this spring… and honor the bunny, the eggs, and Jesus all at once.