By: Natasha Archary
As Christians the world over prepare for one of the biggest religious holidays, one has to ask what the traditions of commercialising the Easter weekend mean. With a staggering eighty six percent of the South African population consisting of Christians, according to the General Household Survey published by StatsSA, how do the chocolate eggs, hot-cross buns and egg-delivering bunny rabbit fit into the religious holiday?
The origin of the Easter bunny
Many believe the exact origins of the Easter bunny stem from Pagan tradition. The festival to commemorate the Goddess of Fertility – Eostre – whose animal symbol was a bunny. With rabbits known for their mating and breeding, they are a popular symbol for fertility.
This still does not explain how a bunny is associated with eggs. Real bunnies don’t lay eggs, so, theoretically, the concept does not make sense. Clouded in mystery, some theories allude to eggs being representative of new life. As Jesus Christ rose so too do the eggs symbolise his new birth. Symbolic in meaning but scientifically implausible.
Nonetheless, the custom for children to receive decadent chocolate eggs or an Easter basket full of goodies makes for a fun and memorable time.
A popular tradition in South Africa over the Easter weekend, is to get the kids involved in an Easter egg hunt. As with most kiddies hunts, the ‘finders-keepers’ rule applies, and little ones can spend the rest of the weekend buzzed on ridiculous amounts of chocolate.
There’s always an Easter Sunday lunch. Families come together from far and wide to observe the auspicious holiday and after the morning church service, a lavish lunch is laid out.
Most religious holidays call for new clothes, Easter however is not one of them. The tradition and meaning behind Easter revolves around faith in Christ and his reinforced affirmation in the divine. Remaining humble and sharing your bounty with those less fortunate is the overarching theme of Easter, much like Christmas.
Chocolate and candy aside, Easter menus in South Africa are pretty similar in all parts of the country. With lamb being the prefered main meal. Lamb being the central symbol, corresponding to the Passover lamb and to Christ.
There are also some traditional foods that complete the Easter feast, pickled fish is one of them. Funnily enough, much like the Easter bunny, many people don’t know how this tradition came about.
The hot-cross bun, is another Easter delicacy. A soft, warm, spicy scented, fruit filled bun that is enjoyed with unhealthy amounts of butter and a hot cup of tea.
Easter is celebrated from Good Friday to Easter Sunday, followed by the public holiday on the Monday following Easter Sunday. Regardless of one’s personal denotations with Easter or religious associations, it’s easy to get caught up in the hype of the commercial side to this holiday. But, we shouldn’t. In doing so we rob ourselves and our children of the real meaning behind this deeply religious holiday.
Many observe fasts leading up to the holiday. Lent, a time when Catholics abstain from eating meat or dairy, to repent and build spiritual discipline. The purpose is to set aside time to reflect on the saviour’s suffering, sacrifice, death, burial and resurrection.
Kaya 959 wishes all our listeners, stakeholders and staff a Happy Easter.