EASTER—If you find a little calf on Easter Sunday, keep it and raise it, for it will bring you a small fortune.
It is bad luck to paint a cross on Easter eggs, and good luck to paint flowers on them.
The day after the Passover a piece of bread is burned to show that the prohibition against leavened bread is then begun.
If the sun shines on Easter, it will shine on Whit Sunday.
Who steps not barefoot on the floor on Easter day, will be safe from fever.
If you bathe with cold water on Easter day, you will keep well the whole year.
To wear new clothes during the three weeks following the feast of the Passover is inauspicious.
It is lucky to find the eggs of wild birds at Easter and eat them for breakfast. (Scotch.)
In Macedonia, when the eggs are colored for Easter, one of them is rubbed over the face so it will always be ruddy.
It is lucky to put on a new bonnet on Easter day, and still more lucky if a bird leaves a mark on it. (Gloucestershire, England.)
In Transylvania it is considered unlucky to the soul if a person dies at Easter.
It is a good omen to have your babe baptized on Easter day.
To cry on Easter is a sign that you will have a sad fourth of July.
Parents have good luck, if a child is born on Easter.
It is very unlucky to keep Easter eggs; destroy them.
If a hen hatches a setting of eggs on Easter Sunday, the chicks will all be drowned.
Egg rolling on Easter day used to be practiced with the idea that the farm lands over which the eggs were rolled would be sure to yield abundantly at harvest time.
If you stand by an open grave on Easter and a clod of earth rolls from your feet into the grave, it is a sign that you will be buried within the year.
If a squirrel runs across your path on Easter, it is bad luck.
If you see a star fall on Easter night, you will lose your lover.
To receive a sudden fright on Easter Sunday is a very ill omen.
An Irish woman declared that she had seen the sun dance for joy on Easter morning: "It gave three skips just as it came over the hill, for I saw it with my own eyes!"
Cross-buns at Easter will bring good luck. (Alleghany.)
The Irish say that at Easter the wild ducks uncover their eggs.
A death in the family on Easter day is very ominous. It means the death of another of the family or of a dear friend.
If you get engaged on Easter Sunday, you will not be married.
It is lucky to receive the unexpected gift of an Easter-egg.
If you fall upstairs on Easter day, it is a sign that you will soon be robbed.
For a grown person to stumble and fall on Easter Sunday is a very bad omen.
A good housekeeper will visit every room in the house on Easter morning to secure good luck in her housekeeping for another year.
If you receive an invitation on Easter, accept it; if you don't, you will never have such an invitation again.
If married on Easter Sunday, your whole future will be bright.
On Easter Sunday blow a loud horn into the cattle-house, and as far as the sound is heard, so far will wild beasts keep away for the year.
If a pet lamb dies on Easter Sunday, you will never have another.
It is unlucky to make love between Easter and Whitsuntide.
It is a lucky thing for you, if a friend happens to bring an infant for the first time into your house on Easter morning.
If you attend a funeral on Easter, expect more bad news.
If a little lamb is given you on Easter Sunday, you are in for the best of luck.
To put on a garment wrong side out on Easter morning, is a bad omen.
If the grease used at Easter in frying cross-buns is applied to the axles of wagons in which the harvest is hauled home, mice will not eat the grain.
To have a disappointment on Easter is a sure sign that you did something wrong on Good Friday.
It is believed, if a young husband mistakes someone else for his wife on Easter morning, that he will be a widower within a year.
On Easter day the priest comes to bless the house in Albania, and as he leaves, the women throw after him the embers from the hearth, so that he will take all danger from fire away with him.
To give a man a red egg at Easter will secure his love. (Tyrol.)
To marry before the three weeks have expired since the Passover, is extremely unlucky.
If the urn of Amorgos is full of water at Easter, it is a sign of a plentiful harvest; but if empty, a bad harvest. (Greek.)
A red egg is placed on the graves on Easter Sunday in Armenia, so that the dead shall have a part in the resurrection.
If you wish to be lucky through the year, you must not fail to wear a sprig of green on garment or coat on Easter day.
Dutch fishermen say it is unlucky to eat meat on Easter.
In Transylvania, if a person finds riches on Easter Sunday and appropriates them, he will have bad luck.
In Manchester, on Easter Monday six women go out and the first man they meet, they throw over their heads twice.
If a person will abstain from eating meat on Easter, he or she will not contract a fever during the ensuing year.
In Transylvania it is very unlucky to work out in the fields on any Thursday between Easter and Whitsunday.
Cakes and buns baked on Easter holidays are supposed to possess supernatural powers. It is an old belief that the custom of eating buns on Good Friday, protects the house from fire.
In Catholic times, in England, people used to put out their fires on Easter day and would relight them from a flint. It was thought that a brand from this fire was a sure protection from thunder storms.
"At Easter let your clothes be new, Or else be sure, you will it rue." (Poor Richard's Almanac.)
If you go early Easter morning to the grave of a friend who has died during the year, and just as the sun is rising sing a hymn, the soul of the loved one will rise that hour.
"When my lord falls in my lady's lap, England beware of some mishap."
Meaning when Easter comes near Lady's day (March 25th).
In Cumberland they bless the wax of the candles on Easter eve, and putting out the fires in the churches, light them anew from a flint. This is to bring new blessings on the parish.
If you place a pail on the ground in the sun on Easter morning and fill it with water, you will see the Easter lamb when the water has become quiet.
If a newly married couple will go out of the house at sunrise on Easter morning and walk thrice around the house, it will bring luck to it.
On Easter the French peasant bestows on his children an egg dyed scarlet like the Cardinal's cloak and all believe that it comes from Rome.
In Ireland they believe that on Easter morning angels descend from Heaven bearing baskets of eggs which they deposit in the homes of the faithful.
In a portion of Bavaria where Easter Saturday fires are lighted in the churchyard with steel and flint, every household brings its walnut-branch which after being partially burned, is carried home and laid on the hearth to protect the house from lightning.
In Macedonia, Christians fast three days and three nights before Easter, not eating or drinking a thing, believing that this secures them the forgiveness of their sins.
An Easter superstition of French origin says that the young girl who wishes to live long, marry the man of her choice, and prosper, must never wear any other flower than the jonquil or violet on that day. These only bring good luck.
In East Yorkshire the young people go to the nearest market-town to buy some articles of dress or ornament to wear the first time on Easter Sunday, otherwise they believe that birds, notably rooks or "crakes," will spoil their clothes.
It was at one time maintained that the sun danced on Easter day. In "The Wedding" Sir John Suckling writes:
"But oh, she dances such a way.
No sun upon an Easter day.
Is half so fine a sight." (1641.)
Sometimes the early Christians thought that among the eggs they had so carefully colored at Easter in memory of the blood of Christ, a bad one was slipped by the Devil, which being an accursed egg, doomed the one who got it to ill fortune.
The Slavs have a peculiar custom of throwing water on people for two days after Easter. They think it bad luck for the thrower to fail in the attempt to cover a person with water; if they succeed, both will be blessed.
On Easter Sunday take a cake, some wine, and some eggs to be blessed, and then when you get home divide it with everything and everybody, especially the poultry and cattle, so that they will become attached to their home and return good profits. (Bohemia.)
On Easter Monday it is lucky for the men in Bohemia to give the women a switching so that the fleas will not bite.
The maiden who wishes to know if her lover is faithful should rise early on Easter morning and eat an apple. Meantime she will say:
"As Eve in her thirst for knowledge ate, So I, too, wish to know my fate!"
If the seeds are even, he will prove faithful; if there is an odd number, alas!
In Macedonia, early on Easter morning when the people return from church they carry lighted candles with them. If these are extinguished on the way home, it is a sign that someone in the family will die; but if they keep burning, it is believed that the family will be multiplied. With this light they light the little oil-lamp which burns in front of the household-pictures of the saints.
Superstitions innumerable have clung around Easter since the days of Bel and Woden (Odin). One of the quaintest of these, that the sun dances in the Heavens every Easter morning, is found in England, Ireland and Brittany. Suckling alludes to this belief in the oftenquoted lines:
"No sun upon an Easter morn
Was half so fair a sight."
In Brittany the maidens dance hand in hand around the bonfires, believing that the flames will give them health, beauty and lovers in plenty.
In Malta, on Easter Sunday, as soon as the "Gloria" is sung in the churches, mothers dip their babies in a bath, in which are thrown some flowers which were used to decorate the sepulchre on Good Friday. This the mothers do to cure their little ones from any fright they may have taken.
Some mothers dip their other children in succession in the same bath when the baby is taken out, and this they do in order that their children might not inherit the fright the one from the other.
The origin of the Easter-egg is told in the following legends: A bird sang a sorrowful lay over Christ's tomb and as a reward for its devotion its eggs were ever after of bright colors. Another story is of an exile who in prison received a decorated Easter egg which said: "Hope in God." He recognized the handwriting of his wife, and managing to communicate with her regained his freedom.
It is said that good luck, health, and prosperity can be obtained by keeping a bottle of Easter-water in the house and occasionally taking a sup. It keeps sweet and pure the entire year and makes the best skin bath. It is obtained by rising on Easter morning before the light of day has fallen upon the waters, going to a running stream, and getting a pail or pitcher of it. Bottle it for future use. In going and returning you must under no circumstances look behind you nor speak to anyone, but go and return in silence.
An old German Easter custom consisted in the assembling in the villages during the Easter holidays of all the marriageable maidens in order to present to each new-made bride at whose wedding they had danced, a beautifully ornamented ball. This ball was borne upon a gaily decorated pole in a solemn procession through the village, and presented to the young bride. She was thereby laid under obligation to furnish free music for the evening to all who might wish to dance. This would bring good fortune to her and her household. It is from this gay festival custom that the expression is said to have originated, "To give a ball."
Lady Sudeley of Winchcomb, Gloucestershire, England, who was a spectator of the magnificent ceremonies of the Catholic church at Rome on Easter Sunday, and who witnessed the impressive scenes which followed the scattering of papers amongst the crowd, writes: "As these fell from the balcony and were wafted by the wind above the heads of the people a scramble ensued that was truly ludicrous to the spectators. Not so, however, to those who almost fought for the coveted treasures, and no wonder, for those papers were Indulgences, papal indulgences, securing to the fortunate possessor a certain remission of punishment which was due here or hereafter as expiation of sin."
Some old sayings about Eastereggs:
The one who gets a golden egg,
Will plenty have and never beg.
The one who gets an egg of blue,
Will find a sweetheart fond and true.
The one who gets an egg of green,
Will jealous be and not serene.
The one who gets an egg of black,
Bad luck and troubles ne'er will lack.
The one who gets an egg of white,
In life shall find supreme delight.
The one who gets an egg of red.
Will many tears of sorrow shed.
Who gets an egg of purple shade,
Will die a bachelor or maid.
A silver egg will bring much joy
And happiness without alloy.
A lucky one the egg of pink,
The owner ne'er sees dangers' brink.
The one who gets an egg of brown.
Will have establishment in town.
The one who speckled egg obtains.
Will go through life by country lanes.
A striped egg bodes care and strife
A sullen man or scolding wife.
The one who gets an egg of plaid,
His heart is good but luck is bad.
Passover, or Pesach, the Jewish Easter, is the feast in commemoration of the night when the Lord, smiting the first-born of the Egyptians, "passed over" the houses of the children of Israel. It is celebrated during the full moon of Nisan (March), and extends over seven days, following the paschal supper, at which the paschal lamb was sacrificed. It is also called the feast of unleavened bread, and large round biscuits of unleavened wheat-flour, called "matze," are eaten during that time in remembrance of the fact that the Jews in their hurry to leave Egypt were forced to take along unleavened bread, which was baked in the sun. To the orthodox Jew the preparation of the matzes is a matter of superstitious importance, and most particular care is taken in selecting the wheat, grinding the flour and packing it in perfectly new barrels which have been especially selected for this purpose. All this must be done by Jews. When the making of the matzes begins, two men bring from opposite corners the flour and water, and two other men knead the dough in wooden dishes. There must always be two men handling the flour and the water, and each one separate from the other, as a drop of water mixed prematurely with the flour would spoil all. The water must be procured the day before and allowed to settle over night, and when it is used, it must not be stirred so as not to stir up unclean settlements, but have it as pure as possible. All the following processes, simple as they are in themselves, are made complicated by the superstitiously scrupulous care employed, as every single operation must be done by one or two different persons. The baking must be done only in daylight, work beginning at sunrise and ending at sunset.
The matzes, though ordered long in advance, are not delivered into the homes until they have undergone a thorough cleaning and all leaven, every crumb of leavened bread, or any kind of fermented food or liquor has been removed. This search for leavened food is a solemn ceremony performed on the eve of Passover by the master of the house, while strict silence must be observed. After the master has gathered every crumb he can find, it is burned; and he declares that if any leaven should remain, it will be null and accounted dust of the earth. In some less orthodox Jewish households in Europe, leavened food or fermented liquor may in case of necessity, or if it is too much to destroy, be kept in the house; but in that case the housewife must lock it up in a closet and hand the key to some old Christian friend to keep until the feast is over.
If matzes should perchance come in contact with ordinary bread they would become unfit for use during the festival.
Some orthodox Jews consider it very unlucky even to mention the word leaven during passover.
The paschal lamb is slain in commemoration of the lamb which God commanded the Israelites to kill when about to deliver them out of bondage. The blood of the paschal lamb is sprinkled on the doorstep or smeared on the doorposts of the house to protect the first-born from the destroying angel.
The particular dishes of the passover-meal consist of roast lamb with mint-sauce, horse-radish, or other bitter herb, the latter, together with a cup of vinegar or salt water, to remind of the bitter oppression suffered in Egypt; the matzes; roasted eggs as a symbol of creation and fecundity, which formed the usual festival sacrifice; while wine is drunk at certain moments accompanied by special toasts, each having a particular symbolism.
The Jewish custom to leave the doors open during the feast is said to have its origin in the necessity of asking Gentiles to look in and convince themselves that no blood of a Christian child was used in the ceremonial, a charge that was frequently made and is even in our times made occasionally by fanatical anti-Semites. As the Jews believe that they are under the special care of God at Passover, some leave their doors open at night to show their confidence in his guardianship.
When the story of the slavery under Pharaoh and the deliverance from Egypt is read after dinner, the finger is dipped in the wine and the drops sprinkled over the shoulder at the mentioning of every plague, in repudiation thereof.
Easter, which is in the Christian church the festival in commemoration of the resurrection of Christ, is the successor of the Jewish Passover (Pesach). Both festivals were identical in date, and in fact are identical in their root. The opposition of the Christians to the Jews, which became very acute at the beginning of the fourth century, led to a change of date, to be determined by lunations, which, however, especially as these lunations do not tally with the facts of astronomy, makes the Easter calculations so difficult as to lead to occasional mistakes. Such a mistake occurred in 1818 when Easter was kept on the wrong day.
"Thirty days hath September
Every person can remember,
But the dates when Easters come,
Puzzle even scholars some!"
While non-Teutonic nations, including, however, the Scandinavians (who call Easter, Paaske) and the Dutch (who call it Paasch), cling to the Semitic word derived from the Aramaic word pesach (to pass by), the German and English-speaking people have the name Easter, which is a relic of the old heathen feasts to celebrate the return of the Spring. It is doubtless derived from the name of the old Saxon goddess Ostarra, Osterra, or Eastre, who was the personification of the East, of the morning, of the spring. Many superstitions and obscure customs, extant to this day, stand proof of how deeply her worship was rooted in the Northern countries, so that many had to be taken over by the Christian festival while supplanting the old heathen festival.
As in the old heathen times, so was the Christian Easter a time of exuberant joy; the pagan joy at the rising of the natural sun, at the awakening of nature from the death-like sleep of winter, easily became the Christian joy at the rising of the sun of righteousness, at the resurrection of Christ from the grave. The Christian Easter was originally, in conformity to the pagan Spring festivities, a sort of thanksgiving observance lasting eight days. This period was gradually cut down until it finally became a single day commemorative of the resurrection, though in some parts of Germany, the celebration still extends over two or three days.
Easter was a favorite time for baptism. All labor ceased; all trades were suspended; the law courts were closed; alms were given to the poor; slaves were freed. Easter Sunday became known as "Dominica Gaudii" ("Sunday of Joy"), because the people gave themselves up to enjoyment, sports, dances, and entertainment of every kind, after the austerities of Lent.
An old Easter superstition makes the sun participate in the general felicity by dancing in the heavens.
In Devonshire, the maidens rise early on Easter morning to see the dancing sun and in the center of its disk a lamb and a flag.
In Scotland, superstition had it, that the sun even whirled round like a mill-wheel and gave three leaps. This unusual merriment of the sun could be seen in its reflection in a pool or a pail of water, the movement of which of course caused or strengthened the illusion.
In many countries it is a very general custom to wear new clothes on Easter Sunday and it is considered bad luck to wear old clothes. In East Yorkshire is the saying, that the birds, especially rooks or "crakes," will spoil the clothes, unless the person wears something new on Easter day.
To meet a lamb at any time is lucky, because the devil can take any other form than that of a lamb or a dove; but to see a lamb on first looking out of the window on Easter day is particularly lucky, especially if its head is turned in the direction of the house. It is not so fortunate, however, if it is looking the other way or lying down. Easter lambs of sugar or pastry are given the children on Easter day in many parts of Germany.
On Easter day the water is believed to possess many exceptional properties, peasants ride their horses into the water early in the morning to ward off sickness. Girls wash their faces with the morning dew, to improve their beauty. Water drawn with the stream and while the wind is due east, is supposed to have great healing virtue. Much importance is attached to rain or shine on Easter day:
"A good deal of rain on Easter Day Gives a crop of good grass, but little good hay."
If the sun shines on Easter morning, it will shine on Whitsunday. Another notion is to the effect that if it rains on Easter day, it will rain, if only a few drops, every day during the ensuing year; while if the sun shines, there will be shine, at least a little, every day.
In Germany the children believe that the rabbits lay beautifully-colored eggs at Easter.
This connection between the hare and Easter originates in the hare's connection with the moon, of which the hare has been from very ancient times a symbol, together with the fact that Easter is to a certain extent a lunar holiday. A few of the reasons of the hare being identified with the moon are: The hare is a nocturnal animal and comes out at night to feed. The female carries her young for a month. Hare and moon were believed to have the power of changing their sex; the new moon was masculine, the waning moon was feminine. The young of the hare are born with their eyes open, while rabbits are born blind; hence the belief that the hare never closed its eyes, and therefore was considered to resemble the moon, who is called the "open-eyed watcher of the skies at night."
The custom of the Christians to present Easter-eggs as a symbol of the resurrection, has been adopted from the peoples of the East, particularly the Persians, where the egg was since the most ancient times symbolical of creation, or the re-creation of Spring. In Christian countries the Easter-eggs were painted red in allusion to the blood of the Redeemer.
The usage of interchanging eggs at Easter has also been referred for its origin to the egg games of the Romans which they celebrated at the time of our Easter, when they ran races in an egg-shaped ring, and the victor received eggs as a prize. These games were instituted in honor of Castor and Pollux who came forth from an egg, deposited by Leda, after Jupiter had visited her in the shape of a swan.
Others allege that the custom was borrowed from the Hebrews who at the passover set on the table two unleavened cakes and two pieces of lamb. To this they added some small fishes because of the leviathan, a hard egg because of the bird Zig, and some meal because of the behemoth.
In some remote districts of France it is still customary for the priest of the parish to go around to each house at Easter and bestow on it his blessing. In return he received eggs, plain and painted.
In Italy an egg dyed scarlet like the cloak of a Roman Cardinal is carried by some for luck all the year round.
It is very unlucky to give away a colored egg that has been presented to you at Easter.
In the district of Brisse there is a custom of scattering a hundred eggs on a level place covered with sand and a lad and lass holding each other by the hand come forward to execute a country dance called the "Branlee." If they succeed in finishing it without breaking an egg they become affianced and not even the will of their parents will avail to break their union.
In some parts of Australia it is thought not only unlucky but unholy to color eggs at Easter, and he or she indulging in it, will never be married.