Here Comes Peter Cotton-tail… Wait, Who??

Easter7-1024x682Easter’s here! This is one of Christendom’s most popular holidays. Along with it come multicolored eggs, bunny rabbits, wee chicks, and Easter flowers. Christians celebrate it with new clothes and hats and attendance at church services as they commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. A great many of their customs and legends though, are anything but Christian. They were appropriated from the pagans and have nothing whatsoever to do with Christianity.

easter4608The very name of Easter is thought to be from the Scandinavian Ostra and the Teutonic Ostern (Eastre). They were both goddesses of spring and fertility with a festival celebrated on the vernal equinox. The Easter Bunny, symbolizing fertility, and brightly colored eggs, are survivors of their festivals .

Every year along about this time folks on this side of the world start digging up the old Easter legends. One of my favorite ol’ chestnuts is The Legend of the Dogwood.

Dogwood Norfolk Botanical GardenThe story goes that in Jesus’ day, the dogwoods in Israel were as tall and strong as oaks. Because an especially strong and tall cross was needed for Jesus, the Romans ordered a dogwood for the job.

The dogwood tree was distressed by its dreadful mission and Jesus promised the tree that it would never grow tall again, but rather be slender and twisted so it could never be used as a cross again.

Dogwood legendThe pink dogwood is said to represent the blushing of shame for shedding innocent blood, while the weeping dogwood represents a heartfelt cry over this tree’s use in Christ’s execution.

Legends have a way of growing. Stories are told and if they are interesting enough, they come to life as they walk through the population from mouth to mouth. Folks repeat them without verifying the truth of them. Soon, they become part of the fabric of our culture.

Vatican Pope EasterThere’s no doubt that this particular legend is American in origin. The language and folk-myth stylization mark it as American. I can’t find any reference anywhere before the 20th century. There are some earlier allusions to the legend, but no real records have been unearthed. The Victoria Advocate, in Texas, ran it on Sunday, 18th April 1954 on page 3B.

wpid-SF_313_Easter_empty_tombThe dogwood, particularly the one alluded to in the legend are indigenous to the United States, east of the Great Plains, as far north as Toronto. There are no dogwood trees in the Middle East. Never have been. The one who created this legend must’ve had a strange and odd imagination, or perhaps it was helped along by the use of some rather powerful drugs! Whatever the origin, I reckon it’s a heartwarming ol’ thing which may be the main reason it doesn’t appeal to me. Can’t abide all that hogwash!

Whatever your traditions or culture may be, celebrate the day in the way and for the reason that makes you happy. I think I may celebrate it by getting out in nature and showing Zeek some of the more beautiful undeveloped areas of northeast Alabama. What better homage could there be to the Creator than to admire the Creation? Happy Easter, everyone!

For another, and far more excellent, view on Easter check out The Belle Jar.


About Ol' Big Jim

Ol' Big Jim, has been a storekeeper, an embalmer, a hospital orderly, a medical biller, and through it all, a teller of tall tales. Many of his stories, like his first book, New Yesterdays, are set in his hometown of Piedmont, Alabama. For seven years, he lived in the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, Amman, Jordan where he spends his time trying to visit each one of the thousands of Ammani coffee shops and scribbling in his ever-present notebook. These days, you can find him back stateside, still filling notebooks.
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