IT is an interesting speculation for the stroller on Broadway at the Easter season to consider from what a distance the poetic fancies of the distant nations of remote times have filtered down to decorate the festival of a God they never knew.
The old, old association of the waning moon, returning in its own time to light the darkness, with the night of winter and the return of the sun and of new life in the spring is back of many of the trinkets that ornament a confectioner's window to-day. To the Phoenician, perhaps, the egg was the symbol of the golden moon floating in that far-away liquid space whence come the spring rains; whence, too, was believed to come the impulse of the new life which yearly breaks through the hard shell of the frost-bound earth. Easter torches have passed from hand to hand ever since the summer festivals in the northern mountains. They were kindled at midnight and carried to the hill-tops to light the path of Baldur, should he return from the dead.
From Egypt and Farther India comes the association of the hare with the Easter season. A writer in the Atlantic Monthly says: "The name of the hare in Egyptian was un, which means open, to open, the opener. Now the moon was the open-eyed watcher of the skies at night, and the hare, born with open eyes, was fabled never to close them. It is an old saying that: 'The Hare feeds only at night.'" The same word un, probably because of the repeated association of opening and shutting, came to have a significance of periodicity also associated with the habits of the hare, and with the moon goddess, as the measurer of days. The suggestion of purity and innocence with the white coat of the Easter hare is wholly a modern addition.
The Hindu myth has it that Buddha, changing into the body of a hare, offered himself as food to a starving traveller; and that therefore the hare abides in the sun forever. Another old saying is, "The moon leaps like a hare when the sun dies."