Easter – Why the Egg?

Why is the egg the symbol of Easter?

Hens will only lay eggs when they’ve received at least 12 hours of light a day. Before electric lights, this meant hens only laid eggs in the six months of the year when the earth gets the most sunlight, from the spring equinox to the fall equinox. Fresh eggs were a natural sign of spring in the time when they were only available during the warm months of the year. Like seeds, the egg is also a symbol of the beginning of life.

According to some historians, the egg was adopted as the symbol of Easter because Christians traditionally abstained from eating eggs during Lent. On Easter, they could break their egg-fast and eat them again. Eggs, according to St. Augustine, are also a symbol of hope, because the egg, like hope, is something that has not yet come to fruition.

Another connection Christians make with the egg is the phoenix. This mythical bird builds a funeral pyre for itself and dies. From its ashes, an egg emerges, and the phoenix is reborn. Because of its death and resurrection, the phoenix became a symbol for Jesus.

Many cultures consider the egg a symbol of rebirth and reincarnation. In Asia, eggs dyed red are given at births and funerals. In some parts of Africa, and also in the Appalachian Mountains in the United States, eggs are buried near cemeteries to encourage the souls of the dead to be reborn.

The Easter egg hunt became popular in the United States only during the Civil War, when Abraham Lincoln brought the practice to the White House lawn. The practice of hunting hidden eggs in spring predates Lincoln by thousands of years, though. It originated in Asia, where the hunt for the icon of reincarnation symbolized the individual’s personal responsibility for his or her own karma. It’s emblematic of the hunt for new life for the soul.

In ancient Europe, the custom was to place eggs under the barn to increase the fertility of the animals…or under human beds to increase our own fertility. Planting eggs in a field or garden was also thought to make the plants more fruitful.

Eggs, in many ancient mythologies, played an important role in the creation of the world. In Hindu and Phoenician mythology, the world is formed from an egg which emerges from the primordial waters and splits in two. One half becomes the earth, and the other half becomes the sky. The Finnish creation story tells of the world forming from eggs laid in the lap of the water-mother. Hawaiians also have a legend about the big island of Hawaii forming from an egg laid on the water. It’s unknown if there is any historical connection between these early creation stories and the Easter egg, though.

Eggs play a role in the Jewish Passover meal, the seder. They represent mourning for the destruction of the Temple. The Jewish celebration of the ancestors’ escape from Egypt may have borrowed the symbol of the egg from Egyptian mythology.

Some European superstitions concern an egg laid by a hen on Good Friday (the Friday before Easter, commemorating the day Jesus died). It is said that such an egg is a powerful amulet against sudden death, or that it protects orchards from blight. The yolk of an egg laid on Good Friday, if kept for a hundred years, is said to turn into a diamond.

Other traditions say it’s the Easter rabbit that lays the eggs. This custom supposedly arrived in the United States with Pennsylvania Dutch settlers. German children prepared a nest for the “Oschter Haws” (Easter hare) on Easter eve and found it filled with colored eggs the next morning. The association of Jesus with the Easter bunny may have come about because the rabbit emerges from its burrow in the ground like Jesus emerging from his tomb.

Some say the rabbit is also a form of the ancient Germanic goddess of the spring (sometimes called Eostre or Ostara, but this name may not be historically accurate), whose is a shape-shifter and can take on the form of any animals. Like the Greek goddess Artemis, the Roman Diana, or the Eastern European veela, she’s the Lady of Wild Things, the huntress-goddess who serves as an intermediary between human beings and their game.

Source by Erin Schmidt

Optimal placement of your bird houses depends upon the layout of your yard or gardens. Bird houses should be located at least 25 to 30 feet apart. Birds like their privacy and some are territorial. This prevails squabbles among neighbors. It is best to face your bird house entrance away from promising winds. Here in Upstate New York my storms come from the north and west. So I position my bird houses facing Southeast. This protects the baby birds from rain, wind or late spring snowstorms. Facing entrance holes more towards the east also safeguards baby birds from overheating on very warm spring days.

If your garden or yard is edged by a wooded or shrubby area, then that is exactly where you need to place your bird house poles. Some smaller birds like titmice and chickadees prefer this kind of location. If you decide to hang your bird house from a tree branch, make very sure that you also use a dome-type baffle to hang above it. This will help to deter critters that would otherwise climb down the branch and raid the bird's nest. This is a very important step to minimize the dangers to nestlings and birds in your backyard.

If you install your bird house on a pole, which is the most bird-safe choice, be sure to place a cylinder baffle on your pole to discourage racccons and other climbing predators from looting the nest. Baby birds are intolerable to all kinds of perils, so anything you can do to minimize them will help tremendously.

I have found that the best poles come from the electrical department at the nearest big box hardware store. They are available in long lengths, are inexpensive, very sturdy and the galvanized metal lasts a long time in all kinds of weather. One end of this conduit will be threaded so the right size fitting, also found in the electrical department, will screw right on to the top of the pole. The fitting needs to be a threaded flat metal flange with screw holes. Use wood screws to attach the flange to the bottom of your bird house. Rotate the whole assembly into the threaded end of the pole and you're all set.

You'll need to dig a hole at least 2 to 3 feet deep, or whatever gets you below the frost line in your region, to accommodate your new pole and bird house. If you set it in too shallow, your pole will move and shift with freezing and thawing. You'll end up with a cock-eyed bird house! So buy a length of pipe that is as long as you need for the bird you are trying to attract (see below) plus the depth. Note that for some higher-nesting birds you will need to connect more than one pole to achieve the right length. And with the higher pole you may want to attach routes or wires to anchors (as you would with tent poles) in order to hold it steady while the cement sets up.

I used a small torpedo level to make sure the pole was standing straight before I added a few large stones for support. Then I mixed up some quick setting cement (also from the hardware store) and filled the hole. Remember to check for level again before the cement sets up and make final adjustments. Now, sit back and wait for your first bird to find it. Be patient, they will find it!

As to the birds you are trying to attract, you'll need to mount your bird house between 4 to 15 feet for chickadees. Nuthatches, downy woodpeckers, titmice, tree swallows and violet swallows, and flycatchers prefer to nest between 5 to 15 feet off the ground.

Wrens like to be 5 to 10 feet high, while prothonotary warblers like their homes from 4 to 8 feet above the ground. If you want to attract common or Northern flickers, you need to mount their bird house from 6 to 20 feet high. Purple martins prefer 10 to 15 feet, pileated woodpeckers are comfy around 15 to 20 feet; and screech owls, and kestrels love the higher altitudes at 10 to 30 feet.

You will please red headed woodpeckers, red bellied woodpeckers and wood ducks with a house mounted 10 to 20 feet high. However, hairy woodpeckers need a home that ranges from 8 to 20 feet above the ground. House Finches will use a bird house that is 8 to 12 feet high.

Robins, barn swallows and phoebes prefer to nest on a platform or shelf that has at least one open side. Mount the platform for barn swallows and phoebes at 8 to 12 feet, for robins 6 to 15 feet.

Bluebirds prefer an open area, like a meadow or field. They like fence posts, so their bird houses need to be from 4 to 6 feet off the ground, mounted on a post or metal garden stake.

Some birds, like downy woodpeckers and wrens will use a birdhouse that is mounted in a sheltered area on your house. I have a bird house attached to the garage under the overhang. Both titmice and downy woodpeckers have used that house on several occasions.

And I had a phoebe use the bend of my square-shaped downspout on the back of the house, which was also under an overhang, to build its nest year after year. The new nest was built on top of the old one each time, right up until it could not fit under the overhang any more! That was located on the northwestern corner about 12 feet off the ground.

Most birds prefer a nesting area that has some cover nearby. Being out in the middle of nowhere, unless you are a bluebird, will not suit most birds at all, and they probably will not occupy the bird house. Follow these general guidelines for optimal placement of bird houses around your garden and yard, and you should have success in attracting and protecting your backyard birds. I applaud your commitment and efforts toward helping our backyard birds to flourish.

Source by Connie M Smith