This year the Easter bank holiday fell in the middle of April but for several months chocolate eggs have appeared on supermarket shelves tempting the casual shopper. Although the exchanging of chocolate eggs has become part of a Christian tradition it is actually a pagan custom that goes back thousands of years. Long before its association with Easter, the egg was a symbol of rebirth. Many ancient cultures used the egg to symbolize both birth and rebirth. Ancient peoples such as the Persians, the Egyptians, the Chinese, the Gauls, and the Romans all used the egg as a symbol in their springtime celebrations. However, when Christianity spread to the lands of these ancient cultures, the exchanging of eggs became incorporated into the memorial celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, the day that came to be known as Easter. These Easter eggs were coloured and given as tokens to remind Christians of Jesus’s victory over death.
During my childhood in the 1940s and 1950s we were not encouraged to take part in pagan traditions and, with sugar rationing just ended, there were no chocolate temptations. Instead we were reminded in our school assembly of the importance of the death and resurrection of Jesus and how it showed God’s love for us.
‘Cleanliness is next to godliness’ was a saying that was often quoted by our teachers at this time of year and we were encouraged to help older members of the community with spring cleaning. It was as though the village sprang into life after the hibernation of winter. Doors were thrown open on fine days and windows began to sparkle in the spring sunshine. Carpets were hung over washing lines and beaten until clouds of dust disappeared into the atmosphere. Doorsteps were scrubbed and paintwork washed, dissipating the dirt of winter. The fresh smell of spring was everywhere and new life appeared in the fields and hedgerows.
It is good to look around us at springtime and marvel at God’s creation remembering that – ‘He has made everything beautiful in its time’ (Ecclesiastes 3 v 11).