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Winter 2005

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Easter Traditions From the Pagans to the Christians

From bunnies to bonfires, many Easter traditions trace their origins to pre-Christian times. Easter evolved from pagan festivals and rituals that ushered in spring. The name Easter itself may have been derived from Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and fertility. The hare or rabbit is associated with her.

Quite a few cultures connected the egg to fertility and fertility was tied to spring. Christians expanded the symbol of the egg to include the resurrection of Jesus. In France, Germany and Austria, egg-picking is a popular game. Two players each hold a hard-boiled egg, then they knock or roll the eggs together. The player with the fewest cracks in the egg wins both eggs. French children also like to play a game where they throw eggs in the air and the first person to drop their egg loses.

In England, hot cross buns remain a popular food at Eastertime, even though they were first created in the 14th century. The spicy, sweet, fruity treats are served on Good Friday and have been used for good luck, to protect sailors from shipwreck and were at one time thought to have magical powers.

Also, in merry old England, the Morris dancers perform ancient spring dances on Easter Sunday to frighten away winter spirits. Dressed in white shorts, red sashes and black trousers, the dancers adorn their straw hats with red and green ribbons and small bells. Then there are the Easter bonnet competitions to determine who has decorated the prettiest hat. People also exchange chocolate Easter eggs.

Italian and French church bells stop ringing the Thursday before Easter. On Easter morning the bells ring out again to remember the resurrection. Children find eggs scattered about their rooms and also check the nests they have left in yards or gardens for eggs. The medieval superstition holds that the bells traveled to Rome to see the Pope and when they returned they brought the eggs with them. In Italy, roasted baby lamb and a special salad made with hard-boiled eggs are the dishes of the day.

Germans cover the cross on Good Friday and eat dishes made with fish. Easter Sunday is for families. Colored eggs and cakes shaped like lambs are part of the meal. Parents hide eggs and cookies in the garden for the children to find. For the Easter fire, old Christmas trees are burned in a special place to clean away the last of winter and move into spring. Scotland also burns huge fires on Easter Sunday, a tradition that dates back to the pagans.

In Italy, Easter Monday is a day for friends and drinking wine. Other European traditions include sporting events, egg rolling contests and dousing each other with water. The water represents the holy water priests used to use to bless people, homes and livestock.

No matter what your Easter traditions may be, enjoy the spirit of the season and welcome in the spring.


Visualise Your Success

Olympic athletes, like high jumpers and ice skaters, visualise their way to success. Even if your goals donít including winning gold medals, you can use their techniques to succeed in your own life. Seeing yourself achieving your goals helps even if you arenít physically practicing what you have to do. Visualisation works for the physical, (losing weight, exercising) the emotional (improving a relationship), or any area of your life.

Start by deciding what you want to achieve. What tools will you need to help you? If they are physical, can you feel them in your hands? Maybe itís a computer for the major report thatís due or a hammer to help you finish the improvements on your home.

When you visualise, take a little quiet time. Find a comfortable spot where you wonít be distracted. Television, many types of music, noisy conversations and ringing telephones will negatively impact the visualisation. Go inside yourself and focus. Spend at least a few minutes to mentally enter that space where you want to be. Make your visualisation as detailed as possible. Involve as many senses as you can. What will you see, hear, smell, taste? How will you feel? Cover each step of the process in your mind.

Visualisation is a tool. It helps you envision your future; it doesnít make that future happen. The reality may not be exactly as you pictured it, however, using your mind to create the sensation of how you want things to be will increase the likelihood of the end result being the one you planned.