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Seven things you didn't know about Easter

By ERICA RODRIGUEZ
March 25, 2010 at midnight
Updated April 1, 2010 at 11:02 p.m.

The Easter egg tradition dates back to the early days of Christianity.

Easter, a multi-layered holiday considered the most important Christian holiday, commemorates the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ for some. For others, the holiday symbolizes chocolate bunnies and plastic neon eggs.

A few facts both religious and commercial you might not know about the holiday:

1. The Passion play, the re-enactment of Jesus' procession to his crucifixion, is celebrated throughout much of Latin America and perhaps most voraciously in Iztapalapa, a neighborhood of Mexico City. The place has hosted the play since 1843 and authorities estimate about 2 million visitors come to watch the procession during Holy Week.

2. Orthodox Christian churches usually celebrate Easter on different dates than Western churches - often as much as weeks apart. This year, the dates of the celebration coincide, something that happens only about three times a decade. Orthodox churches also don't have a sunrise Easter service, something typical of Western Christian, but host a midnight vigil that can last past 2 a.m.

3. Peeps, a puffy, brightly-colored marshmallow snack, is perhaps the most popular non-chocolate Easter-time candy. According to the company, it has been the best-selling non-chocolate candy for the past decade. The amount of Peeps chicks and bunnies eaten for Easter are more than enough to circle the Earth's circumference.

4. Forget the Easter bunny, in Sweden the Easter witch is the holiday superstar. Before Easter, children celebrate the holiday in the same way American children would Halloween. Little girls dress as witches, paint their faces and go door-to-door with brooms and ask for treats. The tradition stems from superstitions that witches would steal brooms and fly to dance with the devil the Thursday before Easter. In parts of western Sweden it is still tradition to light fireworks and bonfires to keep witches away.

5. Rapa Nui island, better known as Easter Island, is famous for its mysterious human-like statues that scatter the land. The island, located in the eastern Pacific Ocean about 2,000 miles west of Chile, was named in honor of the day it was discovered by the first European explorers.

6. The Easter egg tradition dates back to the early days of Christianity. Legend has it Mary Magdalene used the example of the egg to explain the resurrection of Christ to a Roman governor, said the Rev. Dimitri Cozby, pastor of the All Saints Orthodox Mission. Eggs look dead on the outside, but have life on the inside, he said. Mary Magdalene also died the egg red to symbolize Jesus' blood.

7. Although the origin of the holiday's name is uncertain, one view is that it grew from the name Eostre, the pagan Anglo-Saxon goddess of fertility and spring. Other theories point to the idea that the word came from the Latin term for white, which referenced the color newly-baptized Christians would wear at that time.

Sources: Encyclopedia Britannica Online, the Rev. John Stroup, the Rev. Dimitri Cozby, The Washington Post, Time Magazine, marshmallowpeeps.com, nordicway.com and Lonelyplanet.com.

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