|Which came first - the rabbit or the egg?
It’s Easter in the UK and the shops are full ofEaster eggs,hot-cross bunsandEaster bunnies.
Although Easter is widely seen as a Christian festival which celebrates theresurrectionof Jesus, its origins pre-date Christianity and many of itssymbolscome from the earliest civilisations.
Our modern festival’s roots lie in ancientseasonal ritualswhich marked the transition from the "death" of winter to the new life andrebirthof spring.
These days we give chocolate eggs as gifts at Easter but eggs have beensymbols of fertilityfor thousands of years.
Theancient Persiansgave each other painted eggs for the festival of Nowrooz, a celebration held at thespring equinoxwhich marked the start of Persian New Year. The tradition continues to this day.
Centuries ago the earlySaxonpeople markedbunswith a cross to honour theirgoddessEostre, whose name some people believe to be the origin of the word Easter. It is believed that early Christians incorporated suchpaganfestivals into their religion.
Some experts say the Easter bunny was originally ahareas this animal represented fertility and growth in paganmythologydue to its capacity for reproduction. Moreover, in some ancient cultures the hare was also a symbol of the moon, which is significant as the date of Easter changes each year depending on thelunar cycle.
The Easter bunny has become an important symbol of Easter all over the world. But nowadays not everybody treats such symbols with respect.
Prankstersin the Austrian town of Villach have stolen a giant Easter Bunny from the town square. Local police say it should not be too difficultto spotas it is two metres tall and weighs 60kg.