The Easter Bunny was a Fox
(…and other bad-ass Easter origin stories)
Although every country has its own eccentricities and unusual traditions, each of us has grown up accustomed to these long-held rituals.
It may surprise you to learn, therefore, that some of our traditions were even more baffling in the past, or have simply grown into something quite different from what they were originally:
Forget eggs; how about an Easter Witch Hunt:
In Sweden (and parts of Finland), children dress up as witches in the run up the Easter day, but don’t be fooled; the basis for this tradition is not as joyful as our modern celebrations.
Much more adorable than Halloween witches
Centuries ago, when European communities were more superstitious, it was accepted that certain old women had witch-like powers.
With the arrival of Christianity and the emergence of Easter, these women were thought to be in league with the devil, and it was during the dark days of Holy Week that they would supposedly meet.
For this reason, Easter was a time to be vigilant and on the hunt for witches who would ultimately be burned at the stake if found guilty. Happy Easter Sweden.
I prefer hunting eggs personally
The Easter Bunny is (possibly) not what you think it is:
The evolution of the Easter Bunny would be enough to make Darwin faint. In previous traditions, the Bunny was a Germanic sort of Easter Santa Claus who judged children on their behaviour prior to the (now) chocolate-fuelled occasion of Easter Day.
In some folklore, we are told that the bunny was in fact the Germanic Goddess Ostara’s lover (wait, what?) who was previously a bird, hence the ability to lay eggs (Ostara, or Ēostre, allegedly being the origin of the pagan festival of Easter).
And if all of this is not crazy enough for you, in some early 20thcentury versions, it wasn’t a rabbit at all; it was an egg-laying fox, named the Osterfuchs. We’ve been lied to all our lives.
And don’t even get me started on Switzerland; they have an egg-bearing cuckoo instead, a tradition which is still upheld today.
Newspaper troll creates national tradition:
During the Easter holidays, Norway has the perculier custom involving crime fiction. The country goes loco for detective novels and newspaper mysteries, while even advertising joins in the flurry with specially themed packaging and editions.
Easter milk cartons; crime fiction themed
Amazingly, this originated from a highly successful advertising campaign. The writers using the pseudonym Jonathan Wolverines cleverly used their connections in the Gyldendal Newspaper to publish the title of their new book, ‘Bergen train looted in the night’ (in Norwegian, ‘Bergenstoget plyndret inat!’) on the front page of the paper, appearing as a headline.
This 1920s troll convinced the public that this crime had really taken place, and the book’s success surpassed expectations. Consequently, Easter crime fiction was born and has reached tradition status. Now that’s marketing.
Do you know of any strange origins of traditions? How would you like to receive Easter eggs from a fox rather than a rabbit?
If foreign cultures interest you, why not travel in Europe by finding a job with Europe Language Jobs! 😄
Originally published at europelanguagecafe.com on March 24, 2016.