Happy Easter, or whatever flavour of holiday you are enjoying today. At least, in Australia everyone is enjoying a holiday, plus lots of chocolate. Here are this week’s answers, questions here.
1. Full Moons are the moon’s daytime facing towards us. The moon rotates and has a day just like ours, but it is much slower so each ‘day’ and ‘night’ last about two weeks for an observer there. The full moon is when we can see the entire sunlit side – it would be midday for someone standing in the middle of what we see.
2. Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Tuesday or Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras) are names for the day before the beginning of Lent, the period leading up to Easter. Lent is supposed to be a season of self-denial. Today, people may give up something like chocolate or cool drink, but in the past those weren’t even an option and people would give up sugar, fat, eggs and flour. Shrove Tuesday, before Lent started, is an opportunity to use up and enjoy perishables such as butter, milk and eggs before the time of fasting.
3 and 4. Easter, especially under that name, has very deep roots. The Christian celebration of Easter is based on the resurrection of Christ. In other languages the name of the Easter festival is based on the Jewish Passover and the two celebrations are somewhat equivalent. Passover commemorates the Exodus, when the Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt. Freedom from slavery is also a type of re-birth, and it is no coincidence that they are both Spring festivals.
The English word Easter is derived from the ancient Saxon Goddess Eostre. In the northern part of Europe where it is very cold during winter, she was the Goddess celebrated in spring. This is the time of rebirth for plants and animals after the little death of hibernation over winter. Even further back, linguists have connected Eostre with an earlier goddess of the Dawn, and once again there is the theme of rebirth of the sun after the night.
Each group has put their own unique needs and events on an ancient celebration of rebirth. It meets all sorts of social and psychological needs for group cohesion and looking at the positive side. This doesn’t make a particular group’s meanings and observances more or less important, but it’s nice to see the similarities and needs we all share as humans. Which brings us back to the eggs and rabbits, they come into it as immediately recognisable symbols of fertility and new life.
5. The cutie at the top of the page is a Bilby. In Australia rabbits were a little too successful as symbols of fertility. From the original 24 imported rabbits there was a population explosion and an ecological disaster. They not only directly destroyed agricultural land, they competed with many native herbivores, because they reproduce so quickly they pushed the natives out. There was also an explosion of carnivores feeding on them, which further hit the native animals.
Controlling rabbits is a major theme in Australian scientific research, including the rabbit proof fence, myxomatosis and calicivirus.
The Easter Bilby was created to encourage people to get behind the preservation of Australian wildlife by showing that it could be cute and cuddly too but without all the devastation and destructiveness of rabbits. There are some great ideas for replacing bunnies with Bilbies at Wildlife Fun 4 Kids.
Have a great weekend and don’t eat too much 🙂
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