复活节不仅是宗教庆典。据英国史学家兼神学家圣毕德 (Saint Bede, 673-735)考证，复活节其实起源于异教徒在春分之际举行的一个世俗的，膜拜条顿民族的黎明女神艾欧丝特Eostre的节日。英语复活节一字Easter就是由此衍变而来的。漫长的冬季过去了，万物从沉睡中醒来，就象乔叟在叙事长诗《坎特伯雷故事集》开篇时所描绘的那样：
Easter: The Renewal of Life
Easter is more than a religious celebration. Saint Bede (673-735), the English historian and theologian, discussed how the secular concept of Easter originated from a heathen festival held at the vernal equinox in honor of the Teutonic goddess of dawn, called Eostre, from which the Old English word eastre derived. It was only natural that people should celebrate when life was renewing itself after a hibernation or seeming death of winter; or as Geoffrey Chaucer versed so vividly, it was the time
Whan that April with his showres soote
The droughte of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veine in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flower.
What more reason would they need for festivities?
The name Easter was then adopted for the Christian Paschal festival, which added a new meaning, Resurrection, to the celebration and turned it into a religious holiday. For centuries, however, people could not decide which Sunday should be the one for celebrating Easter. The only agreement that could be reached was that it should be the first Sunday after the full moon that occurs on the day of the vernal equinox, which may be March 21 or any of the next 28 days. Therefore Easter Sunday should not be earlier than March 22 or later than April 25, as laid down by the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. It was not until 1963 that the Vatican Council declared itself in favor of fixing the date of Easter, but the Eastern Church still celebrates Easter independently. *
In contrast to this difference, Easter Eggs are common to people almost everywhere where they celebrate this holiday, for the egg is the symbol of life progressing from a quiet and motionless state to the momentous burst of birth. It symbolizes the renewal and continuation of life. Whatever the religion, whatever the culture, life is celebrated in most countries at this time of year. Eggs are colored, given to children, rolled down a slope of newly grown grass, hidden and searched out with cheers and laughter…
If only the world would always be so peaceful, cheerful, and full of life! The shape of the egg resembles 0, and that reminds me of Ground Zero. Death visited this paradise, too. There is still a long way to go before this holiday can be celebrated universally regardless of religion and ideology.
* See “Easter” in Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable.