Did you know that Easter, considered the most holy day within the Christian faith, actually existed long before the formation of Christianity?

It was originally a pagan celebration to honor Eastre, the goddess of spring and offspring. Just how the ancient Saxon celebration evolved into the Christian holiday of Easter is a long and somewhat convoluted story that I will not go into at this time.

I only mention the celebration of the goddess Eastre because some parts of that festival are still with us today even though they have changed quite a bit over the centuries.

The Easter Bunny is a white hare and the white hare was the earthly symbol of Eastre. The Easter hare story came to the United States with the immigration of the Germans in the 1700s and 1800s and eventually morphed into Peter Cotton Tail, bringing every girl and boy baskets full of Easter joy.

And Peter Cotton Tail is my earliest Easter memory. Waking up to find a basket full of candy eggs and chocolate bunnies next to your bed is just not something one forgets. And being allowed to eat some of that candy before breakfast has burned that memory into my brain forever.

I think the Easter Bunny suffered from some nutritional guilt because there was always at least one piece of fruit in my basket just as Santa Claus always left some fruit in my Christmas stocking. However, the fruit was not the first thing I went for on either of those holidays.

I would manage to devour the ears of the chocolate bunny before I even made it out of bed. And by the time I made it to the kitchen my hands and face would be smeared with chocolate and there would be a trail of artificial grass from my bedroom to the kitchen table.

A major scrubbing had to take place before I could put on my pretty Easter dress and patent leather Mary Janes.

I don’t eat the chocolate bunnies anymore, but I do still like to dress up for church on Easter Sunday. This is another custom that came from the festival of Eastre. The Saxons put on their very best clothing to partake in this celebration.

My Easter dresses were usually hand-me-downs from a cousin, but to me they were beautiful. It was also a time I got to wear a petticoat, and I thought I was quite something, even though I probably still had a certain amount of chocolate under my fingernails.

When I was 13, a relative made me an outfit, which was my first form of grownup clothing. It was also the first time I was allowed to wear high heels, which were only 1-inch pumps, but to me I was standing high and pretty darn sophisticated. I also had a cute little Easter hat that I bought with my own money at J.J. Newberry’s. I thought I looked like I stepped right out of the pages of a fashion magazine.

It must have been a fairly warm Easter that year because I didn’t have to wear a coat and cover up my beautiful outfit. I was very grateful about that.

As I wobbled my way to church that morning on my brand new high heels a gust of wind came up just as I was passing by a stream across from the church. The wind took my cute little hat and deposited on the bank of the stream, which was several feet below street level.

I had no choice but to trudge down the bank to retrieve my cute little hat. This was not as easy as I thought in my brand new high heels, and I fell. Fortunately, I didn’t land in the water and I did get my cute little hat, but I arrived at church with a torn skirt, snagged nylons covered with burrs and a broken heel.

Needless to say my entrance into the church was not quite as grand as I had hoped. And on top of that a boy I had a crush on spent the entire sermon pointing at me and laughing.

I went home and consumed a very large solid milk chocolate bunny and then cried. I think that was the beginning of my relationship with chocolate as a comfort food.

Before I went off on stories of Easters past, I was attempting to point out some customs that have survived for thousands of years. I do hope that you celebrate some of them when Easter Sunday arrives and whether you dress up for church or spend some time nibbling on chocolate bunnies or little peeps I hope you have a wonderful day.

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