- The image of the Easter hare carrying a basket of eggs is still used today. The whole idea of the hare laying eggs in a nest may of come from the 'Plover' bird. The bird would make a nest on the ground near a deserted hare's form and lay its eggs.
Other animals that people associate with Easter are:-
- Chickens:- If they lay eggs on 'Good Friday' they will insure health and
- Magpie- Sometimes this bird is seen as bad fortune. In Scotland they believe
the magpie carries a drop of the devils blood under its tongue.
- Pelican:- Some associate it with the death of Christ.
- Robin redbreast:- Legend has it that the Robin received its redbreast from
trying to remove the bloody thorns from Christ's head. A small drop of Christ's blood fell on the bird staining his breasts forever.
- Sparrow:- If you notice the sparrow hops around as if his legs are bound
together. According to some this is because he is being punished for crying 'He is alive, He is alive' when Christ was on the cross. This was a signal to the Romans to prolong his torture.
- Stork:- Is believed to have flown the cross of Christ with compassion and
therefore unlucky to kill.
- Swallow:- Also known as the 'Svale' bird by Danish folklore. It got its name
by crying 'svale, svale' which translated means 'cheer up, cheer up' in an attempt to relieve the suffering of Christ whilst on the cross.
- Donkey:- Beloved by many faiths but in Christianity it was the donkey that
carried Christ triumphantly into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Animals are not the only things that hold special meanings for Easter. Trees and planet have a symbolic meaning to.
- Mystical Trees:-
Hawthorn- Many believed that the branches from this trees were used to make
the crown for Christ's head at the Crucifixion and therefore seen as bad fortune. It is believed that if you bring any part of the tree especially the flowers into the house someone will dye. Attacking or cutting down the tree should not be attempted for the same reason. Others believe the hawthorn to be lucky was, some would place a piece above the door to worn off any negative forces.
- Oak:- It is said that when the Jews began to choose the wood for Christ's
crucifix, they found that all the wood began to split and
break, making it impossible to use. The only tree not to, was the 'Evergreen Oak' or 'Ilex'. This tree is seen as a traitor or another Judas and as a result it is said that Grecians will not have any part of the oak tree in the house. The tree is seen as eternally condemned like the Judas.
- Rowan:- According to legend witches fear this tree as it was believed to hold
powers that counteracted the effect of negative energies. If pieces of branch were placed in the house or in the bed on Good Friday it would ward off such forces. Even wearing a sprig of the Rowan would protect against charm. It was advised to repeat the following prayer:-
"From Witches and Wizards, and long-tailed Buzzards,
And creeping things that run in hedge-bottoms, Good Lord, deliver
This would ensure that dark forces were aware the Lord was present.
- Tansy:- Traditionally the juice of leaves were extracted to
flavor puddings and cakes for Easter. It has a bitter taste, but not unpleasant.
- Vervain:- This plant was used to staunch Christ's wounds at Calvary and was
never gathered unless the sign of the cross was made. Roman soldiers would carry a piece into battle for protection. If you look you can see pale lilac flowers on the sparsely-leafed upright stem.
An Easter Traditional Game:-
- Pace-egging:- An ancient custom, which is coming back into fashion. The word 'Pace' comes from the Latin word 'Pacha' which is another means for 'Easter'. This Easter custom is Lancastrian and is performed by a group of men called 'Pace-eggers' or 'Jolly-boys'. It is similar to the tradition connected to Morris dancing and Mumming. These are both still used in today's folk festival in England and parts of Europe.
Each man would dress himself in bright coloured ribbons, animal skins, Rags and strips of paper. The reason for this appears to relate back to the crusades. One of the men would blacken his face with coal or soot and carry a woven basket on his arm. The group of men then began to proceed through the village and rejoice, celebrating the Easter with the community. The idea of this procession was to encourage the villagers to toss eggs into the basket (Although money may be used as a substitute). The eggs were boiled and wrapped in onionskin to obtain a mottled affect, then eaten for breakfast on Easter Sunday. The man who paints his face black is known as the 'Old Tosspot'. Other characters in this procession are called 'Lady Gay', 'Soldier Brave', and 'Noble Youth'.
The Old Tosspot carries a long straw tail that has been stuffed full of pins, he would swing it wildly about and act as if he was drunk. Waiting for some poor unsuspecting fool to try and catch hold of the tail or be trapped by it. This was all in good
humour and to encourage people to toss things into the basket. When there was either sufficient money or eggs in the basket the pace-eggers would temporarily stop and present a short play or dance. Sometimes they will be rewarded for this by a member of the public such as a glass of beer if performing outside a public house. Once the play was completed and everyone satisfied the procession would proceed continue through the village. And the pace-eggers would sing:-
"Here's one or two jolly boys all of one mind
We've come a-pace-egging, I hope you'll prove kind I hope you'll prove kind with your eggs and strong beer
And we'll come no more nigh you until next year."
Other games that can be played during the Easter festival are egg hunts (mentioned earlier) and rolling your eggs down a hill is a
favorite amongst the young. The rolling of the egg was a symbol of the rock closing the entrance of the tomb where Jesus was placed. I remember in primary school, the whole school would hold a competition to see who could make the most imaginative model using a hard-boiled egg as the main body. The eggs could be decorated with paints or added pieces of paper. If you can think of any other game to play on Easter, write in and tell me.
- Have a Good Easter Everyone.
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