Easter, celebrating the Christian faith in the resurrection of Jesus, actually had an earlier origin.
Easter comes from the Phoenician "Astarte," a goddess of love and fertility. Worship of her spread all over Europe and her name was corrupted into Ostara, which was further corrupted into Eastre.
In the second century A.D. the missionaries came upon the idea to link the rites and symbols of this goddess to Christianity. Some pagans still worship Ostara, but closer to the vernal equinox, which was last month.
Easter is always the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox, so this year it falls on April 15. By the way, the reason Easter and Passover are often so close together was because the Last Supper, most scholars agree, was a Passover Seder, commemorating the Jews' exodus from Egyptian slavery some 1,000 years earlier.
The egg and the rabbit were recast as symbols of Easter, since they had been symbols of fertility and springtime in pagan cultures. In one myth Ostara turned her pet bird into a rabbit, who then went on to lay colored eggs, which must have been hilarious to everyone but the rabbit. Some people also speculate the egg-dyeing tradition came from the pagan habit of gathering multicolored eggs from the nests of birds for rituals.
Of course, you may want to dye your own eggs. Hard boil them first in a clean, nonreactive pan. The writer still has her Paas Easter egg kit, where you dissolve those veggie dye pills in vinegar and water and dip the eggs in with a wire dipper. You then let them dry after you've turned the Paas box into a drying tray. But you can also use stuff that's at hand, like turmeric, which will stain anything yellow, or grape juice. Whatever it is, dissolve it in a half cup of boiling water and teaspoon of white vinegar, and roll the eggs around in it. This is messy, so supervise the kids and make sure that the kitchen table is thoroughly covered with newsprint or plastic.
After the eggs are dry you may do the egg hiding/rolling bit or put them in a basket for display. For those of you who like it fancy, you may decorate your eggs in gold leaf, pearls or gold cord, or dye them with that lost wax process like they do in Eastern Europe, but you have to blow them out first. Make a pinhole at each end, making sure you puncture the egg yolk, then gently but firmly blow out yolk and white, rinse, and let dry thoroughly.
If you don't want the mess of Easter Egg decorating or can't be bothered to do the egg hunts, there's an Easter Egg Hunt at Floral Park at the Queens County Farm Museum at 73-50 Little Neck Parkway on April 14, from noon to 4. Call 347-3276.
There's another egg hunt the same day at the King Manor Museum, Jamaica Avenue and 153rd Street. Call 206-0545.
Something called "Eggstravaganza" will be held at noon, same day, at the Queens Botanical Gardens at 43-50 Main Street. Call 886-3800.
The Queens Farm hunt will set you back $3, the Jamaica Hunt costs $2, and the Eggstravaganza is $5.
Now, you can go to your local drug or variety store for a cheap little pink and green basket and cellophane straw, but if you want a real interesting basket, go to Pier 1 Imports. They have a store at 191-30 Northern Blvd. in Flushing and not only sell baskets made of bamboo and willow, but the last time the writer was there they sold tiny, fluffy chicks, hanging Easter egg ornaments and even decent straw. After Easter you can use the basket for other things and don't have to hide it somewhere out of embarrassment. They also have crouching wood bunnies, pastel egg and bird nests, and daisy egg cup tins.
You can buy a chocolate bunny and chocolate Easter eggs anywhere, but if you want something special, head for Schmidt's Confectionery at 94-15 Jamaica Ave. or look up their website at www.jschmidt confections .com, where you'll find truffle eggs of Belgian chocolate and cream -one day someone's going to tell me why they call it Belgian chocolate since they do not grow cacao trees in Belgium,believe me. By the way, don't worry about overdoing the chocolate on Easter because, hey, you've been sacrificing for 40 days during Lent, right? Indulge.
A word about real chicks and bunnies and ducklings. Don't bother to buy the poultry unless you already live on a farm and need some. If you live in an apartment it's flat out illegal to own them anyway. Hens are dumb and messy at best, and a cute little fluffy boy chick will grow into a belligerent, testosterone-filled rooster who will wake you and your neighbors up at 4 in the morning. A duckling will require at least a wading pool, and is also messy.
If you absolutely must you may buy a rabbit, especially the miniature kind, though make sure you get it in writing, preferably in blood, as to who will look after it. Rabbits are cute, with warm fur and twitchy noses, and can be housebroken, but they are mammals (they of course do not lay eggs, but you already knew that) and have similar requirements as does a dog or cat. For information about how to keep your bunny happy, look up www.rabbitweb.net.
A lady will want to wear a hat for the Easter Parade, whose origins date back to newly minted Christians walking around in their new white robes after their Baptism. The Green Acres Mall no doubt has shops where you can find a decent hat. Lady Cynthia millinery has wonderfully feminine hats with names like DeAnna, Emily, Jane and Collette, with wide brims, big blowzy chiffon silk flowers, pretty veiling, feathers and pearl sprays. She's at ladycynthia.com.
Now, here's a recipe for all those hard-boiled eggs:
Farmer's Wife Eggs
9 Easter eggs
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
2 1/2 cups of milk
1 3 ounce package of Philly cream cheese
1 bunch of chives
2 sprigs of parsley
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Peel the Easter eggs and cut in half.
Now make the white sauce. Melt the butter over a low flame and stir in the flour. When it begins to bubble stir in the hot milk. Simmer for two to three minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Put the egg yolks in a bowl, add the cream cheese, the herbs and the scallions and two tablespoons of the white sauce and seasoning. Mix it all up till it's smooth.
Take 2 tablespoons of the mash and add to the remaining white sauce. Then use the rest of the egg yolk mash to overstuff each egg white. Put in an ovenproof dish, pour over the sauce and heat for about eight minutes in the oven.
Serve hot with a dry white wine.
Reach Qguide writer Arlene McKanic by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 229-0300, Ext. 139.
©2001 Community News Group
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