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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

Facts about the vernal equinox and Easter, of eggs and bunnies.


CURWOOD: Which came first, Easter or the egg? What do rabbits have to do with it anyway? It's all descended from an ancient tradition of celebrations in honor of the arrival of Spring which we mark on the vernal equinox. That's the day when the sun is directly above the equator and the night and day are the same length. Today of course Christians celebrate the resurrection close to this time of year while Jews observe Passover. One of the ancient celebrations, by tribes in northern and central Europe, honored the goddess of Spring, Eostre. Her name is believed to be based on the word East, the direction of sunrise. And in turn may be the basis for our word Easter. As part of the celebration, people offered Eostre cakes similar to hot cross buns. The hare, a larger relative of the rabbit, was sacred to the goddess, and from that we get the Easter Bunny. Also, as part of the festival, people would place eggs, a symbol of fertility, in grass nests. Today we call them Easter baskets. And for this week that's the Living on Earth almanac.



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