“In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love,” said Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Why, then, does a young woman’s fancy so often turn to thoughts of chocolate?
The Origins of Easter
The Christian Easter tradition is based on the Judaic Passover celebration, commemorating the Old Testament incident in which The Lord God killed the firstborn sons of an entire nation, sparing only the Israelite firstborn sons, whose homes were marked by the blood of a lamb on the door. It was at the time of Passover that Jesus was crucified and resurrected.
The celebrations which take place at Easter, however, are drawn from a wide range of local traditions, some of which were based very much on non-Christian religious traditions. The timing of Easter (on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring equinox) meant that it often co-incided with pagan Spring festivals, and the worship of associated deities.
One of those deities, Oestre, even gave Easter its name. Oestre, also known as Ostara, was a Northern European goddess of fertility, and the love and carnal activity which leads to this fertility. Her name can be traced back to a Proto-Indo-European fertility goddess, Hausōs, who was also the goddess of the dawn. She was kidnapped by a dragon and rescued by a heroic god in many Indo-European myths, including the Rigveda. Variations of her name in different Indo-European languages include Usas, Ishtar, Eos, Astarte, Ausra, Aurora, Venus, and Aphrodite.
Rabbits (or actually, in Northern Europe, hares) were a symbol of fertility, and eggs represented the potential for new life. Both eggs and hares were part of the traditional Spring celebrations in Northern Europe, and have, since the sixth and seventh centuries AD, become part of the Easter tradition in Christian-based cultures with European origins.
Why Chocolate At Easter?
Chocolate was a late arrival in Europe, cacao being a New World plant. When the first cacao arrived in Europe in the sixteenth century, it was very expensive, and was consumed mostly by royalty. It quickly gained a reputation as an aphrodisiac.
Perhaps it was a co-incidence that this aphrodisiac substance was used to make “eggs” as Easter gifts for a festival brimming with pagan fertility symbology, or perhaps the connection was deliberate, but either way, the goddess Oestre would have been pleased.
Eating At Easter
Like any other holiday, Easter can be an occasion for unconscious eating. Our “food-is-love” relatives serve up Easter feasts, a barrage of marketing attempts to convince us that our equinox would be incomplete without masses of chocolate eggs and bunnies, and we are released from the demands of work for a few days, giving us more opportunity to raid the fridge out of boredom.
One easy way to avoid Easter over-indulgence is to be mindful of the seasonal meaning of the celebration, and eat accordingly.
Easter is a Spring festival. In the annual agricultural cycle, crops are planted in Spring and harvested in Autumn. The stored food is consumed during winter, when nothing much grows. By the time Spring rolls around, there is not much left in storage, and the fresh green shoots of new growth are a welcome relief.
1. Eat what is in season
You will find that Spring is a great time for green, leafy vegetables. Take the opportunity to load up with all the vitamins and minerals in these wonderful foods. Add eggs, root seasonings, like garlic and onion – fresh, not from a jar – and fresh leaf herbs like basil and parsley. Of course, you can add any dried herbs or spices you might like, if you need to boost the flavour further.
2. Eat local
Find out what foods are grown or made near your home – or even better, grow your own!
The life energy and vitamin content of food starts to degrade the moment it is harvested. The longer it takes for the food to reach your plate, the less nutritional value remains in the food. If you grow your own, or buy freshly-picked produce from someone local, you will be amazed at the difference in the taste, and how you feel after eating it.
3. Cut out a bad habit
The Easter tradition includes the period known as Lent – from Pancake Tuesday to Easter Sunday – during which it is traditional to deny yourself some worldly pleasure, in order to focus your mind on higher, more spiritual aspirations.
Given that millions of people around the world are participating in this tradition, you can make use of that global group energy to help you give up something you know is bad for you. Do you eat ice cream late at night? Grab fast food because it’s easy? Skip breakfast and then eat a muffin mid-morning? Are you still putting off becoming vegetarian or vegan?
Whatever it is, take the opportunity to make a change for the better this year.
4. Listen to your body
It’s so easy to over-eat, or eat unhealthily, when a holiday season arrives.
This year, give yourself the gift of eating mindfully. Eat only the things your body wants (not what your tongue wants, or your mind, or your ego), eat only when you feel hungry, and stop eating when you are three-quarters full.
By eating mindfully this Easter, not only will you strengthen your self-caring relationship, you will also avoid the need to declare a strict post-Easter diet to get rid of the holiday pounds!