I know Easter was last week, but I found the information interesting.
I admit it. I am an Easter bunny. Always have been, always will be. But can you blame me, I was born on Good Friday (I like to joke that I was born on Good Friday in Normal, Illinois, and Friday has never been good sense, nor has my life been normal). My Grandma Schertz made Easter magical every year, and I could not help but fall in love with the holiday. It is rebirth, things beginning new, the earth reawakening. Growing up in the country, the crops were soon to be sown, baby animals being born.
Looking at the history of the holiday, it is filled with religious significance. Whether you are Christians, Jewish, Catholic, or, like me, Celtic Pagan, Easter is a wonderful time. Jews have Passover, Christians, Catholics, and the like have Easter, and I have Ostara. They all celebrate rebirth and new beginnings.
Now, I am not going to tell you the origins of Ostara, or Pagan beliefs, except to tell you that pagans were the common folk, the everyday rustics (thank you for the line, Drew Barrymore, in Ever After). Their beliefs were nature oriented, and could be multi or single deity (such as Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Native Americans, and many more). Let us now speak of Easter during the Regency era.
The actual day of Easter changes each year. I have celebrated my birthday on Easter a couple of times in my life, which I have loved. In researching for this post, I learned some interesting information.
Easter Sunday is the first Sunday after the full moon, following the vernal equinox. I always wondered how they chose the date. During the Regency era, there was, in the Book of Common Prayer, a table to calculate when Easter would be.
The time began with Ash Wednesday, when the people would begin a fast after the evening church services. It was not a complete fast, but a fast of indulgence foods such as dairy, eggs, and butter. These items would be avoided Monday through Saturday, and meat was avoided on Fridays. Sunday was not considered a part of Lent, the 40 days of fasting from Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.
This time was also spent traveling to visit family. Such as in Pride and Prejudice, when Mr Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam made their annual journey to Kent to visit their aunt and cousin, it was common for people to travel to visit loved ones during this time.
It was also a time to wear something new, especially a bonnet. The wearing of something new has roots in the Roman tradition of it being good luck to wear something new in the spring. The Easter bonnets were thought to be exciting after the drab dark colors of winter, so, of course, they were colorful and pleasant.
Before Ash Wednesday, as there would be a fast and people did not wish for ingredients to go bad, the day before was referred to as Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Tuesday. They would make pancakes from milk, butter, eggs, flour, and spices, then fry them in fat, to celebrate. In some locations, such as Newbury, Olney, Northfleet, Liverpool, and Lichfield, they would have pancake races, where the ladies would race carrying frying pans with the pancake, and had to flip the pancake at least 3 times during the race. Some people would even dress up as such things as First Founder of the Fritters, Protector of Pancakes, Earl of Egg-baskets, and Baron of Bacon-flitch. Not certain I want to know what these people would look like in these costumes, but could have been humorous to see. They had games, including a football type game, in the streets.
Now, have you ever wondered why so many hard boiled eggs at Easter? Here is the reason I found. Due to eggs being an indulgence food (sorry, not indulgence in my book, but at the time, it was considered such), they could only eat eggs on Sundays during Lent. So, rather than let the eggs go to waste during the week, they would hard boil them, making them last longer. Then, on Sunday, they could enjoy the eggs.
And what about candies shaped like eggs and rabbits? The first mention, in writing, of egg shaped candies was in 1820, in a book written by Guglielmo Jarrin, a self-described “ornamental confectioner. The book was The Italian Confectioner, and it described the candy shells with treasures hidden inside and candy coating on nuts which was similar to Jordan Almonds.
For those of us in the United States, it was the influence of the German settlers who brought with them their traditions of treats on Easter, including pastries shaped as bunnies and eggs, and brightly decorated. It wasn’t until after the American Civil War that Easter celebrations such as we are familiar with began to be popular.
So, whether you call it Easter, Eostre, Ostara, or you celebrate Passover, I wish you joy and a prosperous spring of new beginnings.