and Easter traditions told through postage stamps

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Traditions     Art     Places

The Christian and Jewish Easter celebrations embody many pre-Christian traditions. The origin of its name is unknown. Scholars, however, accepting the derivation proposed by the 8th-century English scholar St. Bede, believe it probably comes from "Eostre", the Anglo-Saxon name of a Teutonic goddess of spring and fertility, to whom was dedicated a month corresponding to April. 

Her festival was celebrated on the day of the spring equinox, and traditions associated with the festival survive in the Easter rabbit that originated in Germany, and is a symbol of fertility.  

The image shows a pictorial postmark from the "Easter Rabbit's Office" in Germany, to where children can send a demand for receiving a letter with the postmark.  

The postmark shows two happy Easter Rabbits having a nice time by eating carrots, and playing around with Easter Eggs. 

(Scan © Deutsche Post AG).

Another tradition is the coloured Easter Eggs, originally painted with bright colors to represent the sunlight of spring, and used in Easter-egg rolling contests or given as gifts. 

Russia has a long tradition for decorated Easter Eggs, and artists from the famous Lukutin Factory in Fedoskino, north of Moscow, have produced some lovely samples in the late 19th and early 20th century. Below left is a photograph of a Trinity Icon from 1866 and two Easter Eggs from 1867, both from the Lukutin Factory.  


  • Left: Russian Easter Icon and Easter Eggs from the Lukutin Factory in Fedoskino. 

  • Above: Russia 1993.  "The Ascension".  Russian Easter Egg from the traditional Fedoskino Lacquer Works. 

Carl Faberge's famous Easter Eggs, made for the imperial Russian family, are now kept in the Museum of The Kremlin, Moscow, and are considered a national cultural heritage.  They have been featured on modern Russian stamps.   


  • Russia 1995.  Easter Egg by Faberge, made 1909, with a model of the Yacht "Standard".



  • Russia 1995.  Easter Egg by Faberge, made 1910, with a model of a memorial statue for Czar Alexander III. 

  • Russia 1995.  Souvenir sheet, displaying a model of the Moscow Kremlin, topped with an onion  domed Easter Egg.  Work of Faberge 1904-1906.

The Christian festival of Easter probably embodies a number of converging traditions; most scholars emphasize the original relation of Easter to the Jewish festival of Passover, or Pesach, from which is derived "Pasch", another name for Easter, and still surviving in modern Scandinavian languages as "Påsk" [Swedish], and "Påske" [Danish and Norwegian]. 

  • Sweden 2001.  On 22nd March Sweden issued this nice set, particularly dedicated to Easter.  
    The self-adhesive stamps come in a pane of six, two of each stamp.  To the right the corresponding  FDC, saying in Swedish:  "Happy Easter".  The stamps have no face value, but are marked "Inrikes Brev", meaning Domestic Letter. 

  • Sweden 1999.  Sugar eggs and decorated paper eggs, filled with candies, are popular Easter presents.  Neither of the Swedish stamps have face value, but are marked "Inrikes Brev". 

  • Sweden 1998.  Easter Rooster. 
    Note, that all stamps are only perforated on three sides as shown. 

A Greek legend tells of the return of Persephone, daughter of Demeter, goddess of the earth, from the underworld to the light of day; her return symbolized to the ancient Greeks the resurrection of life in the spring after the desolation of winter. 


Many ancient peoples shared similar legends. The Phrygians believed that their omnipotent deity went to sleep at the time of the winter solstice, and they performed ceremonies with music and dancing at the spring equinox to awaken him to the sight of sunlit Daffodils. 

Note that the stamp is only perforated on three sides as shown.

  • Sweden 1997.  Daffodils flowering at Easter. 

The early Christians, many of whom were of Jewish origin, were brought up in the Hebrew tradition and regarded Easter as a new feature of the Passover festival, a commemoration of the advent of Messiah as foretold by the prophets, and in many places still symbolized by the sacrificial Paschal Lamb.  

Date of Easter
Western Christians celebrate Easter on the first Sunday after the full moon (the paschal moon) that occurs upon or next after the vernal equinox (taken as March 21 -- vernal equinox may vary by one day in leap years).  If the paschal moon, which is calculated from a system of golden numbers and epacts and does not necessarily coincide with the astronomical full moon, occurs on a Sunday, Easter day is the succeeding Sunday. 

Easter, therefore, can fall between March 22 and April 25. This rule was fixed after much controversy and uncertainty, which lasted in various parts of the church until the 8th century. 

In the Eastern Orthodox church, however, a slightly different calculation is followed, with the result that the Orthodox Easter, although sometimes coinciding with that of the West, can fall one, four, or five weeks later. 

In the 20th century, the possibility of a fixed date for Easter has been discussed and supported among some Christians; adoption would depend on agreement being reached among the various churches. The second Sunday in April has been proposed. 

Animated Daffodil-graphic © Ann Mette Heindorff.  Based on a set of four stamps from the United States 2005: "Spring Flowers".  See the original image here. The link will open in a new window. 

Stamps contained in the entry animation:

  • Czech Republic 1998.  A lovely Easter chicken peeking out of his shell to greet life.

  • Czech Republic 1999.  An ornate cockerel with a traditional plaited willow stick under its wing, proudly inspecting its colorful plumage. 

  • Hungary 1998. Easter-issue featuring an Easter egg with simulated perforations. 

  • Switzerland 1991.  Rabbit (from the series "Animals I")

Traditions     Art     Places

Sources and links: :

Revised 02 nov 2006 
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