The history of the Easter Bunny

Article from Discovery News

There’s no story in the Bible about a long-eared, cotton-tailed creature known as the Easter Bunny. Neither is there a passage about young children painting eggs or hunting for baskets overflowing with scrumptious Easter goodies.

And real rabbits certainly don’t lay eggs.

Why are these traditions so ingrained in Easter Sunday? And what do they have to do with the resurrection of Jesus?

Well, to be frank, nothing.

Bunnies, eggs, Easter gifts and fluffy, yellow chicks in gardening hats all stem from pagan roots. These tropes were incorporated into the celebration of Easter separately from the Christian tradition of honoring the day Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

According to the University of Florida’s Center for Children’s Literature and Culture, the origin of the celebration — and the origin of the Easter Bunny — can be traced back to 13th-century, pre-Christian Germany, when people worshiped several gods and goddesses. The Teutonic deity Eostra was the goddess of spring and fertility, and feasts were held in her honor on the Vernal Equinox. Her symbol was the rabbit because of the animal’s high reproduction rate.

Spring also symbolized new life and rebirth; eggs were an ancient symbol of fertility. According to History.com, Easter eggs represent Jesus’ resurrection. However, this association came much later when Roman Catholicism became the dominant religion in Germany in the 15th century and merged with already ingrained pagan beliefs.

The first Easter Bunny legend was documented in the 1500s. By 1680, the first story about a rabbit laying eggs and hiding them in a garden was published. These legends were brought to the United States in the 1700s, when German immigrants settled in Pennsylvania Dutch country, according to the Center for Children’s Literature and Culture.

The tradition of making nests for the rabbit to lay its eggs in soon followed. Eventually, nests became decorated baskets and colorful eggs were swapped for candy, treats and other small gifts.

So, while you’re scarfing down chocolate bunnies (I hear chocolate is good for you!) and marshmallow chicks this Easter Sunday, think fondly of this holiday’s origins and maybe even impress your friends at your local Easter egg hunt.

Happy Easter!

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Oldest Message in a Bottle Reaches Granddaughter, 101 years later

Article from Discovery News

 

A message in a bottle tossed in the sea in Germany 101 years ago, believed to be the world’s oldest, has been presented to the sender’s granddaughter, a museum said.

A fisherman pulled the beer bottle with the scribbled message out of the Baltic off the northern city of Kiel last month, Holger von Neuhoff of the International Maritime Museum in the northern port city of Hamburg said.

“This is certainly the first time such an old message in a bottle was found, particularly with the bottle intact,” he said.

Researchers then set to work identifying the author and managed to track down his 62-year-old granddaughter Angela Erdmann, who lives in Berlin.

“It was almost unbelievable,” Erdmann told German news agency DPA.

She was first able to hold the brown bottle last week at the Hamburg museum.

Inside was a message on a postcard requesting the finder to return it to his home address in Berlin.

Richard Platz's message

“That was a pretty moving moment,” Erdmann said. “Tears rolled down my cheeks.”

Von Neuhoff said researchers were able to determine based on the address that it was 20-year-old baker’s son Richard Platz who threw the bottle in the Baltic while on a hike with a nature appreciation group in 1913.

A Berlin-based genealogical researcher then located Erdmann, who never knew Platz, her mother’s father who died in 1946 at the age of 54.

Von Neuhoff said a handwriting comparison with letters penned by Platz later in life confirmed that he was “without a doubt” the author.

Erdmann told local newspapers that the surprise discovery had inspired her to look through family scrapbooks to learn more about her grandfather, a Social Democrat who liked to read.

Much of the ink on the postcard has been rendered illegible with time and dampness, von Neuhoff said.

The discovery will be on display at the museum until May 1, after which experts will set to work trying to decipher the rest of the message.

The Guinness World Records had previously identified the oldest message in a bottle as dating from 1914. It spent nearly 98 years at sea before being fished from the water.

Graham and Kellogg: The Health-Crazed Men Behind Our Kitchen Favourites

Article from history.com

 

Graham crackers and corn flakes: two staples of every American pantry. Chances are you’ve enjoyed a bowl of cornflakes for breakfast or snacked on a s’more by the side of a campfire. But did you know that both of these foods trace their roots back to the 1800s and two men’s obsession with clean living?

Sylvester Graham was born in 1794, the son of a Connecticut pastor. He became an Evangelical minister himself, and lectured widely on the evils of the American diet. According to Graham, meat, alcohol and fatty foods led to gluttony, lust and materialistic urges. The all-American meat and potatoes diet, in other words, was quickly turning America into a nation of drunk, sex-crazed maniacs. His devoted followers, called “Grahamites,” followed their charismatic leader on a restricted diet of vegetables, fruits and whole grains.

Grahamites were especially cautioned to stay away from white breads and flours. Graham espoused (correctly, as it turned out) that many beneficial nutrients were lost in the quest for whiter, lighter bread. Though white breads were a status symbol at the time (only the poor ate brown, whole-grained breads), Grahamites consumed bread made from unsifted, unbleached, wheat berry flour. The crackers baked from this flour were called, of course, graham crackers, although what the Grahamites ate bore little resemblance to the modern day version. While the original Graham flours and breads were said to be quite tasty, they were made with little to no added sweeteners. And Sylvester Graham certainly wouldn’t have been a fan of the mass-produced nature of the majority of graham crackers on the market today.

Sylvester Graham

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 John Harvey Kellogg

John Harvey Kellogg was born 50 years after Graham, but he considered himself a Grahamite through and through. Kellogg wasn’t a preacher, but a medical doctor, running the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan for many years. The sanitarium featured treatments based on water therapy, vegetarianism and enemas to cure ailments from fatigue to alcoholism and soon became a sort health resort for the upper classes, attracting such luminaries as Amelia Earhart, Sojourner Truth and Henry Ford.

Kellogg believed in the same vegetable-centric, whole grain diet as Graham had, but the cereal that would make Kellogg famous came about by accident. While working on recipes for a healthy alternative to bread, Kellogg’s brother, Will Keith, left a batch of boiled wheat sitting out in the sanitarium’s kitchen, causing the wheat to go stale. With money tight, the Kellogg brothers couldn’t afford to just throw away perfectly good food. So they put the wheat through a dough roller, hoping to get thin sheets of compressed wheat—but got flakes instead.

To their surprise, the sanitarium’s patients enjoyed the flaked cereal, and the brothers continued to experiment with a variety of corn and rice cereals, receiving their first patents in 1896. But the brothers soon parted ways: Will Keith wanted to add sugar to the cereals to appeal to a broader mass market. John Harvey wouldn’t hear of it. So Will branched out on his own to create the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company, which later became the multinational corporation we know today as Kellogg’s.