no edit summary
[[File:B12279.jpg|thumbnail|left|Figure 2. While eggs were a pre-Christian symbol for fertility, decorating eggs may have begun as a tradition by Christians from Mesopotamia or possibly Iran.]]
The importance of the spring equinox could not be understated, given the importance of agriculture. For the early Christian church, the time of the Passover was seen as the most important period in the Christian calendar. The importance of Passover, falling near the time of the pagan spring celebrations, may have influenced the Church to decide in 325 AD, in the Council of Nicaea, to have Easter fall on the Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox.
In effect, this puts it near but not exactly at the same time as the pagan rituals, although in some cultures celebrations would have occurred at or during Easter. Furthermore, the Church made this celebration a moveable holiday and not fixed. This gives it a range between March 25-April 25 each year, depending on the particular year. It was also the Council of Nicaea that regularized Lent, the 40 day fasting period before Easter, as a way to help people reflect on the sacrifices of Jesus. This could also be seen as a way to more Christianize the period leading up to Easter and slowly change the meaning of the spring equinox celebrations to those focused on the resurrection of Jesus.<ref>For more on how the early Church decreed the Eastern celebrations, see: Stewart, C. (2008) <i>The Catholic Church: a brief popular history</i>. Winona, MN, Saint Mary’s Press, pg. 73.</ref>
As the church developed the holiday and Christianity spread in the early Medieval period in Europe, particularly in Northern Europe, past pagan traditions of using eggs and rabbits as symbols of fertility and celebration of new life integrated with Christian ides, with the Christian church reusing these symbols to reflect on Jesus as the life giver. In essence, this retained many of the symbols while reorienting the meaning. Initially, it is likely the ancient celebration and feasting during the spring equinox may have been retained during 4th and 5th century CE. The fire used in Mass, for instance, may have connections to worshiping of the sun but in Christian traditions the meaning and importance of the sun was transformed as symbols for the importance of Christ giving light and salvation. But as the Church's influence spread the holiday began to develop its own new symbols and traditions. Traditions such as staining of eggs appear to be initially done by Christians in Mesopotamia or Iran, with that tradition later being adopted by the Western Church (Figure 2). Church writings from around 1610 indicate the importance of eggs as symbols of Christ's resurrection, although this tradition likely starts much earlier in late Antiquity in the 4th or 5th centuries CE. The coloring of eggs seems to have been done only in red initially, as it was to symbolize the blood of Christ.<ref>For more on transition to early Christian symbols in Easter and coloring of eggs, see: Aveni, A.F. (2004) <i>The book of the year: a brief history of our seasonal holidays</i>. Oxford, Oxford University Press.</ref>