Easter is a Christian holiday celebrated by believers throughout the Western world. According to the Bible, Jesus Christ was crucified on Good Friday. He then rose from the dead two days later on Easter Sunday, also called Easter Day. In fact, Easter has become so rooted in Western culture that many people participate in Easter activities regardless of whether they're Christian or not.
Parents often give their children delicious chocolate eggs or arrange Easter egg hunts in the garden. (These eggs, the children are told, were hidden there by a magical rabbit called the Easter Bunny.) Sometimes villages will even hold egg-rolling competitions, with eggs being rolled downhill in a race. In Greece, eggs are dyed red to symbolize the blood of Christ, while in some Eastern European countries, they are painted with intricate and beautiful designs.
Many of these Easter traditions, however, predate Christianity. There is some evidence to suggest that the ancient tribes of Northern Europe celebrated the coming of spring by worshiping their fertility goddess, Eostre. The rabbit, or hare, was her symbol because these creatures were known to be particularly fertile. Eggs were also once a common symbol of spring because they symbolized new life. Now, though, they symbolize the empty tomb of Christ.
The forty-day period that leads up to Easter is called Lent, a period of self-discipline, prayer, and contemplation. During this time, some strict Christian groups swear off any kind of animal products. More relaxed believers, on the other hand, simply give up one or two beloved items of food, such as cakes or candy. Either way, because it marks the end of this period of disciplined eating, Easter is a time of feasting and celebration. It's no surprise, then, that in the United Sates, Easter is arguably the most candy-crazed holiday of the year. More than $2 billion is spent annually on goods such as chocolate bunnies, marshmallow chicks, and jelly beans!
The owl is a very wise bird, and once, long ago, when the first oak appeared in the forest, she called all the other birds together and said to them, "You see this tiny tree? If you take my advice, you will destroy it now, while it is small, for when it grows big, mistletoe will appear upon it, from which birdlime will be prepared for your destruction."
Again, when the first flax was sown, she said to them, "Go and eat up that seed, for it is the seed of the flax, out of which men will one day make nets to catch you."
Once more, when she saw the first hunter, she warned the birds that he was their deadly enemy, who would wing his arrows with their own feathers and shoot them.
But the birds took no notice of what she said; in fact, they thought she was rather mad and laughed at her. When, however, everything turned out just as she had said, they changed their minds and developed a great respect for her wisdom. Hence, whenever she appears, the birds pay attention to her in the hope of hearing something that may be useful to them. She, however, no longer gives them advice, but just sits sadly pondering the foolishness of her kind.