The Divinity & Symbols of Easter

As we head toward the first public holiday since Christmas and New Year, Easter represents a mixture of religious beliefs, pagan festivals, and another excuse for indulgence in chocolate.

Reflecting back to my first experience as an X-pat in Switzerland, there was a culture shock when I went shopping for Easter Eggs.  I had heard of the Easter Egg Hunt but did not think that tradition took place prior to the Easter holiday J

Where were the large Easter eggs, encased in colourful packaging with sweets inside, and where were the Hot Cross Buns?  I have memories of my Mother going out early to the local Bakers on Good Friday to buy freshly made Hot Cross Buns which were delicious with butter whilst still warm.  Good Friday was also traditionally the day when my Mother insisted windows be cleaned and the curtains washed.  I am not sure that ritual had any historical significance but was more likely a hang over from the distorted values inflicted by her austere Irish Catholic upbringing.

Whilst still on the hunt for familiar Easter gifts and confectionary, I was disappointed not to be able to find Cadburys Creme Eggs.  This was a staple diet during Easter in my British background J I must stress, I am only joking.  Although, the long running advertising campaign entitled, “How Do You Eat Yours?”  for Cadburys Creme Eggs was a talking point for many throughout the U.K.

X-pats - do not despair, all is not lost.  There is a shop in Zug named the London Store that stocks Cadburys Creme Eggs and it is possible to order some goods via their website: -

After my initial surprise, I thought it best to make the most of my new surroundings and try to understand the different customs and acclimatise to the alternative sweet treats.

There were plenty of chocolate bunnies/hares (die Hasen) for sale and a small selection of chocolate eggs manufactured by Lindt, Suchard, and Cailler.  The Lindt Goldhase Milch (Golden bunny in Milk chocolate) has a little bell around it’s neck which proves entertaining for children.  Allegedly, the Hare is the true Easter bunny and is a symbol of fertility.

There may be an alternative to Hot Cross Buns and that is the Easter Cake-(Osterncheüchli).  Sprüngli (Paradaplatz in Zürich, for example) have a nice selection.

The Coop offers a fun selection of Easter Bunnies in 2006, ranging from
Hase Harry im Rüebliauto to Hase Clown Max.  There is also a selection of small chocolate eggs in varied style and size packaging.

Easter in Switzerland would not be the same without coloured hard-boiled eggs; the egg being another symbol of fertility.  There are a variety of fun artistic kits available in the shops to enable children to decorate the eggs.  Children believe it is the Easter Bunny who puts the eggs in the moss-filled nests laid out for them to find, hence the Easter Egg hunt.  Switzerland’s largest Easter Egg hunt, held on Easter Sunday, is in St. Gallen’s Old Town.

Good Friday processions have become less common but the ones still held in Medrisio in Canton Ticino;  Romont in Canton Friboug; and Disentis in Canton Graubünden,  are well known. 

Easter is celebrated with parades in many areas of the world.  The annual Easter Parade in New York City is famous and is due to take place on Easter Sunday.  Irvine Berlin’s 1948 musical, The Easter Parade starring Fred Astaire and Judy Garland pays tribute to this event.  It includes the lines,
 “In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it, 
You’ll be the grandest lady in the Easter parade.”

Fred Astaire narrated the 1977 cartoon film, “The Easter Bunny is comin’ To Town.”

On Easter Monday, there is the option to join in the traditional after-Easter egg game:  Zwänzgerle.  This takes place on Limmatquai in Zürich.

Details of Easter events throughout Switzerland can be seen on the website: -

For the people of Val d’Hémérence and many others throughout the world, Easter signifies the resurrection of nature.  Also, for many religions, important rituals and services take place at this time of year.

There is an ongoing debate as to the correct date of Easter Sunday and I am not sure who has the final say on this matter.

In 2006, Sunday 9 April was Palm Sunday and that marks the beginning of Holy Week. Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem to the cheers of the crowd who waved palm leaves.  For those religions that follow this version of events, many in the cheering crowd were among those baying for Jesus’ blood within the same week.  A symbolic tale of how some people only build others up just to knock them down.  Also, how fickle human beings can be.

During my early school days, I remember being asked to make small crosses out of palm leaves in preparation for the Palm Sunday service.  This was considered to be a tremendous honour and a privilege, as we were allowed to miss the normal lessons for that day.  Unfortunately, the religious education I received was not balanced and it is disturbing to recall some of the stories we were told.  It is dangerous when a belief is promoted as a fact, especially to young impressionable minds.

Sunday 9 April 2006 was also the first wedding anniversary for TRH Prince Charles and Duchess of Cornwall (Camilla).

Thursday 13 April 2006 represents a start to different religious festivals.

The festival of Vaisakhi (Baisakhi) is celebrated by the Sikh religion on 13 or 14 April.  It is a community festival celebrating cultural diversities and the commencement of the agricultural cycle with sowing in the Spring.

Many Christians recognise this day as Maundy Thursday and it is remembered as the day of the Last Supper.  The annual British Royal Maundy Service is planned to take place at Guildford Cathedral, England, U.K.  Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will distribute the Maundy money to 80 men and 80 women, in recognition of HM The Queen’s 80th birthday.

For those involved in the Jewish religion, this day is the first night of the Passover and is when the special meal called a Seder takes place.  The Passover( Pesach/Pesah) is the time Jews (who practise their religion) commemorate when the Jewish people were freed from being slaves of the Pharaoh.  There was an exodus from Egypt. 

Any topic that relates to religion is linked to controversy and ongoing debate and 2006 is no different.  Some cynics say that religion is another form of control for the mass population.  It is important to evolve and strive to learn new facts.

The National Geographic Channel broadcasted a show on Sunday 9 April on the subject of the Secret Gospel of Judas.  Could it be that the villain becomes a hero?
It is a different spin on the traditional story of how Judas allegedly betrayed Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Some say the Gospel of Judas is more of an Indiana Jones type object rather than an accurate historical document – but who makes the final judgement?

Some say that Jesus was celebrating the first night of The Passover with his disciples but there is controversy that the Last Supper took place slightly before this festival. 

The masterpiece mural of the Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci can be seen at the Dominican Convent of Sta Maria Delle Grazie in Milan, Italy.  Unless; as when I travelled there in 2002, the Dominican Convent was closed as a result of local council workers being on strike.  The scene portrays the moment in which Jesus tells his disciples that one of them is about to betray him.

One of the most controversial films to be released in 2006 is The Da Vinci Code (Directed by Ron Howard) based on the novel by Dan Brown.  It is a fictional thriller novel that has obtained some positive reviews and also criticism, controversy and condemnation.  The Da Vinci Code is due to be released in Switzerland on 18 May.

Friday 14 April represents Good Friday in the Christian belief system.  It commemorates the day Jesus was crucified.  Some churches reflect on the Stations of the Cross, a picture storyboard of Jesus’ journey to the cross.  Certain prayers are recited at each picture.  Mel Gibson’s film, Passion of The Christ, shows the last twelve hours of Jesus’ life on earth.  I have not seen the film as yet but have heard that it shows in graphic details the brutality that Jesus was subjected to. The film was one of the post popular films in the U.S.A. shortly after it’s release and did attract some controversial critics but not quite as many as
Monty Python’s film The Life of Brian (1979).  The Biblical satire followed the life of a Jewish fictional character from Nazareth who is finally crucified by the Romans.  It includes the song, Always look on the bright side of Life, when Brian Cohen is on the cross. 

From my own experience, the Catholic priests and teachers enforced the message that Jesus died to save us and that we were all sinners and Jesus suffered this torture and terrible death because of us.  As Adults, people are entitled to their opinion but putting this burden on the shoulders of six year olds is disturbing to say the least.  We were not told that Jesus was a Jew and received no enlightenment on what the festival of the Passover means (for example). 

Sunday 16 April, represents Easter Sunday for many Christian religions and commemorates the day Jesus rose from the dead.  The burial tomb was found to be empty and there were alleged sightings of Jesus.  This is the part of the story that potentially can bring comfort to those trying to find coping mechanisms to deal with bereavement.  For those who believe the biblical accounts, it provides a hope of eternal life.  When we say goodbye to loved ones, maybe we will see them again and maybe this belief will pull us through the grieving process.

Monday 17 April is a legal holiday and is part of the season of Easter that begins on Easter Sunday and lasts until the day of Pentecost.

The celebration of Easter extends beyond the church.  The word Easter is derived from Eastre or Eostre, Anglo-Saxon goddess of Spring and dawn. Eostre is also worshipped by some neopagans, who associate her with various aspects related to the renewal of life: Spring, fertility, and the hare.  Spring is the season of new life and revival, from ancient times, the pagan peoples of Europe and Asia held their Spring-festivals, re-enacting ancient regeneration myths and performing ceremonies to make the crops grow and prosper.

Whatever your belief system, may you have a nice time during the Easter break.  My thoughts go out to those trying to find ways to deal with the grieving process and may this time of year bring hope into your life that light will triumph over darkness.

Spring flowers are lovely.  They bring such vibrancy, colour, and scents for us to enjoy.  The flowers have had a tough time this year battling against the continued snow and heavy rain.  There is a saying; April showers help to make May flowers but not sure of the environmental impact if the heavy rain continues.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II said during her recent Commonwealth speech, ” He who has health has hope, and he who has hope has everything.”

May you have the courage to feel continued hope aided by the new beginnings witnessed during Spring.

Frohe Ostern.
Happy Easter.

©Theresa Avery. 
April 2006.


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