Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Shape of Easter

So, Eostretide is upon us. A time for eggs, fluffy yellow chicks, bunny rabbits... and chocolate (ahh, good old Aztec Easter). This is, in the words of the Amazing Blondel, Spring Season.

Readers will undoubtedly already know that the word "Easter" derives from an old Germanic word meaning "dawn" or "spring"; that the Venerable Bede wrote, around the turn of the eighth century AD, that the season was in fact named for a Pagan goddess-avatar of the spring (although as his is the earliest account of this, you have to trust that Bede did his homework - see also footnote*); and that Christians associate this rebirth of the year with the Biblical rebirth of Jesus Christ, although none of the European farmyard imagery of the festival has any relevance whatsoever to him. Fans of the Amazing Blondel may also know that Spring Season has a sound, which one may "hark and hear". But what you may not know is that Easter has a shape.

I was alerted to this strange fact in the supermarket last week, as we shopped for Easter eggs for The Lovely Jo's family. All Easter eggs these days must be accompanied by some kind of back-up sweets ("eggcessories", perhaps, or "B-candies", the sugary equivalent of B-movies) and most are packaged with chocolate bars. But my eye was caught by a row of eggs aimed at younger kids, which rode into town on "Easter-shaped jellies". Little jelly sweeties shaped like Easter.

What is the shape of Easter? Do seasons have shapes? My first thought was that it ought to be something non-Euclidian and strange-angled - something suitably abstract. (Still haven't learned from Bernard Matthews' disappointing Turkey Princess Dreams, then. Little poultry nuggets in the shape of crowns and stars - damned if that's the shape of any of my dreams, never mind the dreams of royalty. I'll bet Princess Diana wasn't blessed with dancing visions of little bready crowns and stars. But perhaps I'm assuming too much.) The Lovely Jo remarked that it very probably wouldn't be crucifix-shaped, although the thought of pastel-coloured jelly Christs amused me for a while.

In the event, one of her brothers had wondered the same thing and gave us an egg with Easter-shaped jellies. It turns out Easter has two shapes - a sort of circular, blobby chick and a gnarled thing that might be a rabbit. Either these are mere facets of Easter's much weirder true shape, or I'm disappointed. The manufacturers didn't go so far as to suggest that the sweets were "Easter-flavoured", which is a shame because the taste was anonymous enough that they could probably have gotten away with it.

(*Fakelore: Invented folklore. Also covers Bowdlerised folklore. A lovely word that I stumbled across on Wikipedia while reading up on Bede's part in all this. I'm sure we can all think of examples, although to be honest most folklore must be fakelore by now. What religious groups, heritage/re-enactment festivals, Hollywood and Ladybird books haven't beaten into shape, the Victorians invented wholesale. "Fakelore" is now my second favourite Wikipedia-given word, after the found word (at least, I'm assuming it's a typo) "anarchronistic", which is strikingly apt for an entry on Wild West steampunk.)


Mags said...

Anarchronistic pops up in some Milesean stuff, I'm sure. Or some play on anarchist and architect.

John Toon said...

"Anarchitects" is one of his.