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A brief history of Easter, Christians and a recipe

Now only a week away, Easter is traditionally the holiday of spring with its promise of life renewed. Since prehistoric times, peoples of the world have welcomed spring with rejoicing in the awakening of the earth after its long winter sleep, with singing, dancing and worship services.

In America and most European countries Easter is a Christian holiday, the day that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead – a triumph of life over death.

Historically, the resurrection of Christ occurred at the time of the Jewish feast of Passover (Pesach in Hebrew). And in the early years of Christianity, Jewish Christians observed the resurrection and Passover together on the 14th day of Nisan, the Jewish month corresponding to April.

The term Easter was first used when Christianity was introduced to the Saxons, who had previously held an annual feast in honor of the ancient Teutonic goddess of spring, Eostre.

Through the years, a great assortment of customs have developed so that now the arrival of spring is acknowledged in a multitude of way on this joyous, happy day.

The dyeing and painting of eggs, the collection of small creatures for pets in school rooms and homes, the wearing of new outfits are all part of this celebration with perhaps the most popular being Easter egg hunts and the gifts of candy-filled baskets.

In the homes of America, the secular observance of Easter calls for the annual spring cleaning ritual of houses and yards, the preparation of feasts for the Easter table, which is filled with the bounty of spring: lamb and ham, chicken and duck, always a coconut layer cake and, of course, the dishes made “to use up” some of the dyed eggs found on the annual hunt.

The Easter bunny, who brings the eggs, first began in Germany in the spring celebration. Children made nests of leaves, moss or grasses and placed them in their yards and gardens. They believed that during the night, the Easter bunny would fill the nests with bright yellow, blue, green and purple decorated eggs. And indeed he does.

Easter egg recipes vary according to family custom, and the number of eggs found. Here is one:

SPRING ASPARAGUS & EGG BAKE

2 cans (14-1/2 ounces each) cans asparagus, drained

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1-1/2 cups milk

1 cup mild cheddar cheese, shredded

4 eggs, peeled and sliced

1/2 cup cracker crumbs

1/4 cup butter

In saucepan melt butter, stir in flour and salt; blend in enough milk make a smooth paste. Stir in remainder of milk and cook over medium heat until sauce is thick, stirring constantly. While sauce is hot stir in cheese until melted. In greased 1 1/2 quart baking dish layer half of asparagus, eggs and sauce. Repeat to make a second layer. Top with cracker crumbs mixed with butter. Bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until bubbly. Place under broiler to brown top.

Note: 1 can English Peas, drained may be added. Recipe may be doubled, using 3-quart casserole and baking 45 to 50 minutes.