Joys of Easter

Reverend Renate Cochrane, Hout Bay

Easter is the time when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Christ – so what does this have to do with eggs and bunnies?

We can only understand this custom with a look at history. Many centuries ago, when the first missionaries came to Germanic countries, local people embraced the Christian message of love and justice, but did not want to give up their cultural traditions. One of their most beloved traditions was the spring celebration in honour of the goddess Eastre. She was the goddess of fertility and “new life”. After the dark winter months, the Germanic tribes joyfully anticipated the “new life” of planting, warm air and sun in summer. Many symbols accompanied the spring festival. Eggs are the symbol of fertility, so are rabbits as they multiply very fast.

When I was a child in Germany, my deeply Christian mother explained to me, that our Easter eggs and chocolate bunnies were a reminder of ancestral times when people still worshipped many gods and goddesses.

This never disrupted the joy of “pagan” Easter practices in our family – as children the chocolate feast and search parties in the garden instilled happiness in our hearts.

And today, as an adult, celebrating that Christ has conquered death, I still carry the joy of Easter in my heart. There is nothing wrong with cultural tradition going alongside religion – as long as the cultural tradition is not oppressive.

Seeing the chocolate bunnies and Easter decorations in South African supermarkets is still strange for me, but I remember the sweet joy of our childhood and I am sure, African children are just as happy about this custom.