Over 30 years ago I enjoyed my first ostereierbaum. A small tree with bare branches decorated with hanging Easter egg ornaments. An ostereierbaum can be kept inside, all you need is a branch which can either be found in nature or these days bought at many crafts store and stand it in a pot or vase. You can decorate with your own decorated chook eggs or buy colourful wooden egg. Besides eggs, other popular decorations include bunnies, carrots, flowers, birds, and little nests with baby chicks. This German tradition is centuries old, but its origins have been lost. The act of painting eggs originates from a Ukrainian tradition, for countless generations, Ukrainians have been decorating eggs as an offering to the Gods and Goddesses of health and fertility. This traditional act of pysanka (“pih-sahn-kah”) is made by using wax and dyes. The egg is an ancient symbol of life all over the world.
Easter Sunday (also known as Resurrection Sunday) is one of the most important day of the year for Christians, as it is the celebration of Jesus being resurrected from the dead. But the naming of the celebration as “Easter” according to scholars, was named after the Anglo-Saxon goddess, Eostre, who was depicted as a Fertility Goddess and a Goddess of Dawn and Light. She was honoured at Pagan festivals celebrating the arrival of spring.
But why does Easter Sunday change dates every year? The reason for this variation is that Easter always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the spring|autumn equinox. Generally, Easter occurs somewhere between late March and late April. So, Easter in fact falls on the first Sunday after the full moon that takes place on or after March 21st.
Many of the symbols of Easter –egg, the chicken, and the hare, (which has transformed into the rabbit) are ancient symbols of spring, of the coming of new life after the hard winter.
Really the tradition of rabbits bringing eggs doesn’t make a lot of logical sense, so there must be a reason as to why every year children rush to see what treats that this mythical creature has left for them. The origin of the Easter Bunny dates back hundreds of years, beginning in pre-Christian Germany. The earliest evidence of a more modern Easter Bunny dates back to the 1600s, when its first mentioned in German writings. This rabbit, called “Oschter Haws” or Easter hare, was believed to lay a nest of colourful eggs for children who were good. But why a Easter bunny and not a chicken? It seems that the rabbit and the egg became intertwined because of their pagan roots representing fertility and rebirth. It seems possible that these two images merged into the egg-laying rabbit of German lore, instead of a (practical) chicken! As Christianity spread across Europe, Pagan traditions were blended with Christian holidays, which saw the Easter Bunny lay a nest of colourful (today, chocolate) eggs.
“If you see a rabbit laying little brown eggs, don’t eat them. It’s not chocolate!”-Unknown
As spring arrived, the pagans would celebrate a month-long festival of the transitioning time from winter entering into spring. This festival saw the Saxons making buns marked with a cross, which represented the four phases of the moon, or the four seasons to offer to the goddess. The modern hot cross buns are an Irish and English Easter tradition. Soft, spiced and fruited yeast rolls, they are marked with a cross to symbolize the crucifix and are baked and served on Good Friday.
In the southern hemisphere, Easter is in Autumn, a very different time when the chooks may even stop laying eggs! Nevertheless, we can observe a renewal of life in nature. With the first autumn rains, the earth really sings, the plants and the insect world come alive after the summer heat. The plants have their autumn flush as they grow in the gentler autumn sun, before the cold of winter takes hold; the grasses begin to shoot; the autumn wheat is planted, along with the bulbs and seedlings which will flower in the spring.
Planting something for the future over Easter is a wonderful thing to do, bulbs for spring flowering, trees for the good of the earth, flowering plants for the native birds to feed in. Easter can be a reminder of life and hope in a world which can be depressing at times as we listen daily to stories of covid 19 pandemic, violence, poverty, war, and environmental degradation.
Easter is an ideal time to plant herbs like chervil, chicory, coriander, fennel, garlic bulbs, lavender, marjoram, oregano, parsley, rocket, sage, sorrel, rosemary, thyme, winter tarragon and yarrow in the vegies garden, consider planting broad beans, broccoli, cabbage, celery, cauliflower lettuce, leek, onion, peas, radish, shallots, spinach, spring onion and turnip and not to forget, the carrots! It is also good idea to plant extra leafy green seedlings of spinach, kale and sliver beet for the chooks, but hopefully not the rabbits.
Add some colour to the vegie patch, and pop in some, dianthus, cornflower, pansy, viola, echinacea, stock, verbena, and lupins. Sweet peas, which folklore says plant out on or around St Patrick’s Day (17th March), but there is no steadfast rule, so much in gardening is weather dependant, so plant a few seeds over Easter for a beautiful display in spring. Having these around your veggies will give some interest to the patch, and act as beneficial insect attractors!
Some of the easiest bulbs to grow include freesias, ixias and spiraxis. Over Easter I particularly like to plant Daffodils as they look a bit like easter eggs! Find a sunny well-drained spot and dig over the soil incorporating some compost. They can also be planted straight into pots.
Other Easter Garden Jobs- Top up mulch on your veggie patches, herb gardens and ornamental beds, especially important for weed suppression at this time of year. A tip is to mulch after watering or after good rains, to a depth of about 7cm. Keep mulch clear of plant stems… especially young seedlings. Choose a low environmental impact mulch, one that will enrich your soil as it breaks down, I like broken down horse poop and hay or well composted chook manure with wood shavings/straw.
Green manure crops, including oats, wheat, fava beans and field peas are good to go now… improve that dormant veggie patch, and get ready for next seasons heavy feeding plants!
Chooks also get into the Easter spirit … plan now for next years, coloured eggs, for the breakfast table- Blue, Green, and Pink Layers – Easter Egger, Araucana. White Egg Layers – Leghorns, Silkies, Hamburgs, Sebrights, Polish, Minorcas, Andalusians. Cream Egg Layers– Dorking, Faveroll. Brown Egg Layers – Rhode Island Reds, New Hampshire Reds, Cochins, Brahmas, Plymouth Rocks. Light Tan Egg Layers – Buff Orpington. Dark Brown or Chocolate Coloured Egg Layers – Marans, Barnevelders. Speckled Egg Layers– Welsummer.
Chook Trivia. A hen’s earlobe colour may be a clue as to the colour of egg that she will lay. Hens with white earlobes typically lay white eggs, while hens with red earlobes usually lay tinted or brown, blue, green, and pink eggs!
Chicken Easter Health – Moulting occurs naturally as a response to the decrease in daylight hours that occurs leading up to the shortest day (winter solstice). It is the time to renew their feathers. Losing feathers and re-growing them is called moulting and occurs every year when the days get shorter. During moult, chickens typically stop laying eggs and use this time to build up their nutrient reserve. If you notice your chooks looking a bit bare and loose feathers (can looks like a feather pillow exploded or a fox attack) in the chicken house and run, it is important to make sure your chooks are getting enough protein and calcium in their diet. They use these two essential nutrients more in Autumn to help them grow their new plumage.
Supplement their diet with some or all of the following: • Extra legumes (peas, beans, lentils etc.) • Sunflower seeds • Fish oil or cod liver oil • Daily feed of high nutritional greens such as spinach, silver beet, kale, cabbage etc.
I also like to feed them warm mash high protein gains soaked overnight in water or milk and warmed up before giving to your chickens each morning and like to include a couple of cloves of garlic and a teaspoon of turmeric in the mix to maintain health.
So, whether it’s, rabbits or hens, egg trees or bulbs, green or blue eggs, this Easter remember – Chocolate is the answer, who cares what the question is!
Remember to watch the stars, breathe deep and sing out loud in the shower. Kerrie