Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Wick Fisher
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Easter history, traditions, gifts

Wick's World


"Ishtar" is the name of a 1978 comedy starring Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman. It was a huge box office failure and if you had to bear watching it like my wife and I, you’ll understand why. Ishtar is pronounced "easter," although this movie had nothing to do with the Christian holiday.

Ishtar is still sometimes mistakenly called the source of Easter. The word Ishtar is derived from the name of the Babylonian goddess of fertility and sex and has nothing to do with saving and redemption. Somehow the torture and killing of a man/god who was placed on a cross in order to basically save humans from the sin of being human, just doesn’t seem to co-relate with fertility and sex.

The fact is, it doesn’t, although some claim that a connection exists between fertility and Easter eggs and bunny rabbits.

There is an obvious relationship between eggs and fertility and the connection with rabbits and fertility is fairly noticeable also. Rabbits are about as fertile as you get in the animal kingdom. Gestation lasts 28-31 days and a rabbit can get pregnant within minutes of giving birth.

However, most scholars believe that Easter was derived from the German word "Eostre" and had nothing to do with Ishtar, although baby chicks and Easter eggs are still part of the Easter tradition no matter the derivative of the word or the customs associated with it.

In our household, hiding and finding Easter eggs was the one Easter custom we practiced. As in a lot of families, once or twice over the years an egg was somehow missed or left behind.

My wife related the story of an Easter egg hunt at her home when she was a young child. She found one particular egg that was so pretty, she decided it should be kept for posterity. She stashed the egg in a box and placed it in her dresser drawer. Although her mom searched and searched to no avail for the final egg to be accounted for, she eventually had to give up.

Several weeks later, when the egg began to rot, its notorious rotten egg smell surfaced. In the meantime, both Karen and her mom had long forgotten about the wayward Easter egg. Eventually the smell dissipated and for the time being, all was well. One day her mother got to wondering what was in that box in Karen’s drawer. The odiferous mystery was solved with the unveiling of a petrified Easter egg.

Traditionally, and most unfortunately, misguided parents will give their kids an Easter bunny or a baby chick as a gift. Rather than a gift, they are often handing out death sentences for most rabbits and chicks as very few of these critters ever see adulthood.

Case in point: The year Karen entered kindergarten, she remembers her mother giving her a baby chicken as an Easter gift. After Karen played with the cuddly little thing for a while, her mother told her to put it away on top of the refrigerator so the dog wouldn’t get it.

Envision a 5-year-old child climbing up onto a chair to securely place a box containing a baby chick and a dish of water. Of course, the water spilled all over the chick. When her mother eventually took the box back down to feed the chick, it was not in very good shape. Actually, it was already dead. They may just as well have crucified it and strung it up on a cross. It died from one of the following: exposure, drowning, neglect, or it may have starved to death.

This is the natural outcome one can expect when you give bunnies and birdies as "Easter gifts." Let’s just say Karen’s baby chick died from natural causes.


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