The ancient Anglo-Saxons celebrated the return of spring with a carnival commemorating their goddess of offspring and of springtime, Eostre. The word carnival possibly originated from the Latin ‘carne vale’ meaning “flesh, farewell” or “meat, farewell.” The offerings were rabbits and coloured eggs, bidding an end to winter.
As it happened, the pagan festival of Eostre occurred at the same time of year as the Christian observance of the Resurrection of Christ and it didn’t take the Christian missionaries long to convert the Anglo-Saxons when they encountered them in the 2nd century. The offering of rabbits and eggs eventually (in the 8th century, it is thought) became the Easter bunny and Easter eggs.
Prior to 325 AD, Easter was variously celebrated on different days of the week, including Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. In that year, the Council of Nicaea was convened by emperor Constantine. It issued the Easter Rule which states that Easter shall be celebrated on the first Sunday that occurs after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox. The “full moon” in the rule is the ecclesiastical full moon, which is defined as the 14th day of a tabular lunation, where day 1 corresponds to the ecclesiastical New Moon. It does not always occur on the same date as the astronomical full moon. The ecclesiastical “vernal equinox” is always on 21st March but Easter Sunday is the Sunday following the Paschal Full Moon date for the year.
Christians commemorate the Friday before Easter as Good Friday, the day that Jesus was crucified. Easter Sunday is celebrated as the day Jesus rose again.
HOT CROSS BUNS
The word bun is derived from the Saxon word “boun” (pronounced “bo-han’) which means “sacred ox.” At the ancient Celtic feast of Eostre, an ox was sacrificed with the ox’s horns becoming a symbol for the feast. They were carved into the ritual bread, thus “hot cross buns.” Initially, the cross on the buns represented the moon, the heavenly body associated with the goddess Eostre, and its four quarters. Today, the cross on hot cross buns represents the cross of Christ.