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Austria: Easter

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Easter is almost automatically associated with the idea of the Easter Bunny and Easter eggs. At the same time, we recall the religious festivity around the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, Easter is also one of the oldest celebrations of mankind, in prehistoric times probably celebrating the resurrection of nature after the long cold winter and the coming of longer lighter days and fertility. The heathen spring festivity originally got its name from the Middle Eastern goddess Astarte (Ostara or Eostre in the Nordic countries), who stood for the east, the dawn, fertility and spring, and whose sacred animals also included the rabbit. According to legend, the goddess loved children and gave them brightly coloured eggs brought to her by the Easter Bunny. In any event, eggs where probably buried, given and eaten as a sacrificial custom at Ostarun (the Old High German word for Easter).

Like so many other customs, Easter, too, was subsequently christianised, developing into the theologically most important festival of Christendom. At the Nicean Council of 325, Easter was set on the day that follows the full moon following the equinox. After the Gregorian calendar was introduced, the Western Church agreed on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the equinox (the start of spring between March 20 and 23).

The stamp shows a motif by Werner Berg, one of the most important painters and graphic artists of the 20th century. He was born in Elbersfeld on April 11, 1904, and died on September 7, 1981 in Carinthia. He studied in Vienna and Munich, where he was encouraged by Emil Nolde. In 1931, the artist moved to Carinthia, to a remote farmhouse that he occupied and farmed with his family until he died in 1981. The Carinthian landscape was a decisive influence on his works, which stand out for their clear and powerful colours.

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