With all the talk of religion in the old-school blogosphere lately, the roots of religious festivals have been on my mind alot lately, especially Easter. Today my family takes its traditional annual trip to the big market downtown to pick up all the little imported foodstuffs for Easter dinner next week.
Easter is a holiday with an especially rich history, its roots coming from spring fertility rites celebrated in honor of the goddess Eostre. These would eventually influence naming the entire germanic month of April after her, "Eostur Month".
Some parts of the traditional Eostur celebrations survive today, like rabbits and eggs. Rabbits were eaten though, as opposed to sneaking through the night delivering baskets of candy, and one rabbit meal would be thrown into the fields in offering to Eostre (I imagine this fertilizer led to a particlularly bountiful patch of field). Eggs of course are symbolic of fertility and natural bounty.
Eventually, the Christian celebrations of Passover would rise to predominance, and the destruction of all written records of the old faiths would cause poor Eostra to fade into obscurity and uncertainty. Think of her while you're coloring eggs this week!