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LEGENDS SURROUND MYTHS OF EASTER BUNNY, EGGS AND OTHER POPULAR CUSTOMS

 KANSAS CITY, Mo., April 1 /PRNewswire/ -- Holiday experts at Hallmark Cards Inc., the world's largest greeting card and personal communications products company, offer the history behind some of the most popular Easter symbols and customs used in sustaining holiday traditions and rituals.
 What is Easter?
 Easter, celebrated this year on Sunday, April 11, is the Christian's most important feast. It honors Jesus' rising from the dead. Associated with ancient festivals, Easter also celebrates spring.
 Where did Easter get its name?
 Hallmark research shows that some historians believe the word "Easter" comes from Eostre, the Teutonic goddess of spring, whose festival was celebrated at the vernal equinox. Other historians see a connection between "Easter" and the rising of the sun in the east.
 Where did the Easter customs originate?
 The various customs connected with the Easter hare came to America with the Germans who immigrated in the 18th century, according to Hallmark research. For them, the coming of the Easter hare on Easter Eve was similar to the Christkindl's visit at Christmas. The children built nests for the hare, hiding them in a barn or around the house, and believed that if they were good the hare would lay Easter eggs in the nests. As the Pennsylvania Germans settled throughout the eastern United States and Canada, they took this custom with them, but it was more than 100 years before these Easter traditions began to be accepted widely in this country. Hallmark made its first Easter card in the early 1920s.
 Where did the tradition of the Easter bunny come from?
 According to Hallmark holiday experts, it is actually the hare, and not its cousin the rabbit, which relates historically to Easter. As a symbol of the Anglo-Saxon spring goddess Eostre, the hare also is emblematic of fertility. Hallmark researchers say it is probably just a matter of language and usage, and not an intentional slight, for Americans to use the terms Easter rabbit or Easter bunny.
 Do Easter bunnies lay Easter eggs?
 Bunnies do not lay eggs, but according to legend, the Teutonic goddess of spring, Eostre, changed a mythical bird into a rabbit and that is why the Easter bunny builds nests and fills them with eggs. One third of Hallmark's Easter cards and 85 percent of Easter gifts feature the Easter bunny.
 What do Easter eggs represent?
 Easter eggs represent new life and are the most popular secular symbols of Easter. Eggs have been a spring symbol for thousands of years. Also, the egg has been called nature's most perfect container. It is also the world's most popular secular symbol for Easter, and the most popular symbol on Hallmark's 1,300 Easter cards. Twenty-five percent of Hallmark's Easter cards are shaped like an egg.
 The Ukrainians are famous for decorated Easter eggs, with each village making its own design. During Holy Week, the children in the Netherlands go door to door collecting colored eggs. Hallmark makes Easter greetings in nine languages including, Spanish, Russian, Polish, Greek, Portuguese, Italian, Swedish, Norwegian and French.
 An Easter tree?
 Decorating a tree for Easter is a relatively new tradition in America. However, this custom dates back hundreds of years ago to Europe, where decorated eggs were hung from a flowering branch in the garden for good luck. In some countries, a lucky place to make a wish was beneath the Easter tree. In 1991, Hallmark introduced a Keepsake Easter Collection of collectible ornaments. Ornament collectors let Hallmark know that decorating was a year-round activity and wanted to have collectibles for their Easter trees. This year Hallmark offers 19 new ornaments. Last year, Hallmark introduced Easter memory trees and wreaths.
 Why does the date Easter is celebrated on change from year to year?
 The date of Easter always varies from year to year and is determined by the moon. Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox and is always between March 22 and April 25. This year, Easter falls on Sunday, April 11.
 What does the Easter cross symbolize?
 An empty cross symbolizes Jesus' resurrection three days after His crucifixion. Twelve percent of Hallmark's Easter cards have religious messages.
 What do Easter candles represent?
 Easter candles symbolize life after death and the coming of sunlight after winter's darkness.
 Why is it a custom to wear new clothes on Easter Sunday?
 Wearing new clothes at Easter probably dates back to the time when the New Year started in March and new clothes were worn to signify a new beginning.
 -0- 4/1/93
 /CONTACT: Betsy Helgager of Hallmark, 816-274-7630/


CO: Hallmark Cards ST: Missouri IN: SU:

SM -- NYEFNS5 -- 1810 04/01/93 07:05 EST
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Date:Apr 1, 1993
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