Lecture 10


Number 10                                                                                                                          April 2024

Did you get to see it?  Perhaps experience it is more accurate.  Seeing photos of an eclipse or watching a program about an eclipse on TV and actually experiencing it are totally different experiences.  The entire event lasts at least an hour.   Descriptions of it getting “dark as night” are not accurate.  It is more like late evening or early morning.  Even at “totality” the corona casts light on your surroundings.  The temperature drops a bit as direct sunlight has been taken away.  At that point you can see the corona, something you can’t normally see.   We had been told to expect high, thin clouds and possibly low thicker clouds with just a slight chance of a clear sky.  Where we were the skies cleared as the event started and the clouds did not return for several hours. It was truly a “once in a lifetime experience” for most of us.

The month of April usually brings us part of the Lenten season, Holy Week, and Easter Sunday along with the threat of severe storms and our annual income tax deadline.  This year, because of it being a leap year, the events I just mentioned, except for the tax deadline, took place in March. 

Easter Sunday is the highlight of the church year.  Adults recognize it as the foundation of our faith.  Jesus was executed and buried in the tomb before the Jewish sabbath.  It was on the first day of the week, Sunday, that the women came to the tomb to properly bury him only to be told by an angel that he was not there.  That he had risen as he had foretold.  The children look forward to a visit from the Easter Bunny, colored eggs and candy.

As a child I wondered why it was called Easter.  My parents and grandparents either didn’t know or somehow avoided the answer.  Instead, they led me into coloring hard boiled eggs, and talked about how the eggs represented the “tomb.”   That really didn’t make a lot of sense to me because everyone knows to get to the egg you must break the shell. 

A few months ago, I was doing research for the December lecture when I discovered an article about the origin of the Easter celebration and how it related to Holy Week and Easter Sunday.  Our national heritage is primarily borrowed from our European ancestors.  When they journeyed to this land seeking a better life they brought with them the traditions, customs and celebrations that were dear to them in the countries from which they came.  Our first immigrants came from Great Britain settling in Jamestown in 1607 and at Plymouth in 1620.  They and those that followed them established the foundation that later migrants embellished as time passed.

Before Christ was born the Anglo-Saxon tribes that settled in England celebrated the arrival of the Spring equinox.  Like most pagan cultures the Spring rites centered around a female goddess.  She was known by various names.  The ancient Greeks knew her as Persephone, goddess of Spring and Queen of the Underworld.  In the Roman world Flora was the goddess of Spring and particularly flowers.  Her rites were celebrated beginning in 238 BC and were held between April 28th and May 3rd.  Among the Anglo-Saxons she was known as Eostre.  Not much is known about the rites surrounding her worship other than it occurred about the time of the Spring equinox and probably had something to do with hares and eggs. 

The Venerable Bede is our sole source for information about her.  He mentions her in his 8th century work, ”The Reckoning of Time” .  He wrote that during her celebrations the pagan Anglo-Saxons held feasts in her honor.  Her worship had died out by his time but had been replaced by the Christian Paschal month. 

What about the Easter bunny?  What does he have to do with Easter?  He is not a rabbit or bunny.  He is a hare, a close relative of the rabbit.  And has absolutely nothing to do with the death and resurrection of Christ.  There are two items of interest concerning European rabbits or hares.  It was believed for a long time that hares were hermaphrodite, that is they could reproduce without the loss of their virginity.  Illustrations and paintings of the Virgin Mary occasionally have a rabbit or hare depicted; secondly, the Easter Hare originated among the German Lutheran church.  He took the role of a judge.  He would judge if a child was good or bad and reward those good children with candy, painted eggs and sometimes toys; a springtime version of Santa Clause complete with his own ‘naughty or nice’ list.

I mentioned painted eggs.  Easter eggs represent the empty tomb where Christ had been laid.  The tradition of Easter eggs began in Europe with the origin and date unknown.  At one time fasting and abstaining from animal meat and animal products included eggs.  On the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday children would go to their neighbors begging for eggs for beginning on the next day eggs were forbidden until Easter Sunday when eggs came back on the menu.  The tradition of painting them also is unknown but became widespread.  Among some of our Easter Church brothers the eggs are dyed red representing the blood shed by Christ on the cross.

My wife introduced me to what she says is a German tradition.  All year long she saves the outer skins  from yellow onions.  The skins are varying shades of brown. She squirrels them away in a plastic bag some place warm and dry.  A few days before Easter Sunday she takes a dozen or so eggs, some squares of white cotton cloth, a spool of thread and the pickings from a visit to the lawn and garden picking interesting leaves and flowers.

The saved onion skins are placed in a large pan with plenty of water with a bit of vinegar to encourage the process.  The eggs are then wrapped in the white squares with the greenery from the yard and tied securely with the thread.  Once the onion mix is at a boil the eggs are added, sure to be completely covered with the onion skins.  Turn off the heat and allow the eggs to cook and cool.  Take them out of the water and set aside to dry.  The empty egg cartons make good cooling racks. She just suggested that you might try using some skins from onions of other colors.  I doubt the use of white onion skins would do much but maybe red onion skins.  I would be sure to make a second batch with the red onion skins or possibly wrapping the eggs with a layer of red onion skins.  When the eggs have cooled enough to handle unwrap them.  There should be various shades of brown with the outlines of the plant leaves and flowers that were wrapped with them on the shells.