Why are baptisms more common in Easter?
One would expect that the amount of christenings that take place in a given period of time would be strongly correlated with the birth rate. However, whilst it’s undoubtedly true that birth rates vary over the course of the year, the majority of the births occur during the summer, after the festival has taken place. Why then, do we see such high number of christenings during this time? To what should we attribute this trend?
The question can be answered in terms of both practicality and religion. Obviously, the weather is slightly better than it is during the winter and so many couples are tempted to delay the event by a month or two in order that the day itself run smoothly. This practice is not a recent development; historically, many children of Christian parentage have been baptised during the Easter Sunday service itself. For this reason, many Christians choose to confirm their baptismal vows alongside the new intake and judge Easter Sunday to be the best time to do it.
Why is Easter in spring?
Christians associate the events of Christ’s life with significant days on their calendar. Just as Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ, Easter demarks his death and resurrection. Theses dates have nothing to do with the events of history and almost everything to do with the pagan calendar from which the Christian calendar emerged.
One need only look outside the window in order to see why spring came to be so closely bound to Easter. The world, having been a cold and dark place, is returning again to life; birds are singing, leaves are re-emerging on the once-bare branches of trees and once absent animals are emerging from hibernation. These themes are common to all spring festivals and the Christian story of the resurrection is rife with them. This should come as no surprise; these are, after all, themes which predate Christianity by thousands – if not hundreds of thousands of years.
Whilst it’s easy to fathom why spring should be so closely linked in our minds to birth and rebirth, it’s not so easy to wrap ones head around the precise formula by which the date of Easter Sunday is calculated.
To put it simply, Easter Sunday is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox. If that is a struggle, then don’t despair – you can always look it up if you’re planning something! All you need to know is that the day is calculated using a rigid set of rules – it’s not as arbitrary as it might appear.
Just what does the Easter bunny have to do with anything?
Perhaps the most frequently asked questions surrounding Easter concern the relationship between rabbits, eggs, Jesus and chocolate. At first glance, this seems something of a hodgepodge of utterly random influences. But each of them borrows from different elements of pagan folklore, theology and modern consumerism – and the result is the festival we recognise today.
The practice of incorporating pagan rituals into the Christian calendar was vitally important to the early popularity of the church. For example, the pagan festival of Saturnalia, during which the Ancient Romans would toast the god Saturn and get hideously drunk, was transformed into Christmas. The practice of baptism itself is derived from Jewish, Norse and Pagan traditions.
The same is true of Easter, which draws its name from a pagan goddess, Eostre. Her mythology is closely wedded to that of the march Hare, who was thought to possess the ability to lay eggs during Easter – remember that this was during a time when very little was known about biology.
The symbolism of the egg is obvious. The egg represents birth, arguably in such a way that no other object possibly could. Why are Easter eggs made from chocolate? The answer can be thus surmised: At one time, eggs were consumed during Easter. But then chocolate manufacturers realised that, by creating chocolate eggs, they could sell a great deal more chocolate. Thus, to the chagrin of dentists across the land, was born the now-ubiquitous chocolate egg.
As a by-product of the annual fixation with eggs, one of the most popular christening gifts is the egg cup – most frequently one made from silver. This is a more recent tradition, developing during the Victorian era when advances in manufacturing allowed silverware to be created more easily and so become rapidly adopted by a growing middle-class. Silver egg cups and spoons remain popular christening gifts today.