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Ask SAM: How Easter traditions came to be
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Ask SAM: How Easter traditions came to be

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Otterly Delightful

The drive along Peters Creek Parkway got much more colorful in recent weeks thanks to a smiling, 50-foot-tall river otter. Surrounded by geometric shapes and perched beside a waterfall, the otter serves as the focal point of a 15,000-square-foot mural painted along the Sides Road water tank. The mural was completed over a 26-day span by Florida-based artist Daas, who was hired by the city to paint the water tank for $38,000. Daas’ otter design — a species found along the Yadkin River in Forsyth County — was selected out of 47 design proposals by the city’s Public Art Commission. It now greets roughly 25,000 Forsyth County drivers a day.

5 Best Easter Candies to Fill Your Basket. From chocolate to sweets, there is plenty of irresistible Easter candy. Here are some of the best Easter candies to try this holiday season. 1. Cadbury Creme Eggs. Although these are now available year-round, they are still an Easter staple. 2. Whoppers Robin Eggs. An Easter basket wouldn't be complete without these candy-coated Whoppers. 3. Chocolate Bunnies. This Easter treat comes in all shapes and sizes. 4. Starburst Jellybeans. This candy is the perfect size to fit inside your small plastic eggs. 5. Peeps. An Easter wouldn't be complete without this iconic marshmallow treat

Q: What is the story behind the Easter lily?

— R.B.

Answer: Lilies are mentioned several times in the Bible, including Jesus' reference in Matthew 6:28: "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin." Some religious traditions say that white lilies sprang up from drops of Jesus' sweat during his crucifixion or that lilies were found in Mary's tomb three days after her death. Church paintings of Mary and the baby Jesus often featured lilies as symbols of purity.

Easter lilies gained widespread popularity (and, presumably, their name) because they bloom around Easter time.

Q: How did the Easter Bunny get the name Peter Cottontail? I mean, I know why a rabbit would be referred to as having a "cotton tail," but how did that specific name come about?

— B.B.

Answer: The name actually derives from a 1914 children's book, "The Adventures of Peter Cottontail" by children's story author Thornton Burgess. The character's actual name was "Peter Rabbit," and he originated with writer Beatrix Potter, who named the character after her childhood pet rabbit Peter Piper.

"Burgess tried briefly to call his rabbit Peter Cottontail," according to a 1944 article in Life magazine. "But he went back to Peter Rabbit for, as Peter himself said, 'There's nothing like the old name after all.'"

He continued to write about the character as Peter Rabbit, but the temporary nickname took off separately, perhaps helped along in 1949 by a popular Easter song, "Here Comes Peter Cottontail," written by Jack Rollins and Steven Nelson, the same duo who later wrote "Frosty the Snowman."

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Q: Where did the tradition of the Easter Bunny come from?

— J.H.

Answer: In his book "Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things," author Charles Panati traces the origins to pre-Christian customs celebrating the goddess Eastre, who was worshiped by Anglo-Saxons through her earthly symbol, the hare.

Eastre was the goddess of springtime, and rabbits were often associated with fertility. Second-century Christian missionaries learned of the celebrations in honor of her when they were trying to convert the Teutonic tribes north of Rome.

"Whenever possible, the missionaries did not interfere too strongly with entrenched customs," according to Panati. "Rather, quietly — and often ingeniously — they attempted to transform pagan practices into ceremonies that harmonized with Christian doctrine."

If converts took part in a Christian ceremony on a day when no other people were celebrating, they could become targets for persecution. But if a Christian rite took place on the same day as a similar custom, it was less obvious.

Also, having similar customs would make it easier to convince people to adopt new ways, and, perhaps, convert to Christianity.

Over time, more and more people converted to Christianity. The rabbits came along for the ride, and the Easter Bunny eventually became the egg-delivering scamp we know today, eggs also being a traditional symbol of fertility and the renewal of life.

Parade magazine

Parade magazine will not appear in today's Winston-Salem Journal, but it will return April 11. The magazine is taking several Sundays off this year — May 30, July 4, Aug. 1, Sept. 5 and Dec. 26.


The Sides Road River Otter water tank is in the finals of the 2021 best of water facilities. It is competing against a wastewater treatment plant in Athens, Georgia. Voting ends at 2 a.m. Monday and is open to anyone, anywhere with a valid email address. To vote, go to and click on the Athens, GA/Winston-Salem, NC matchup to read the descriptions. Then click the Vote! Vote! Vote! link, enter your information and select Sides Road Water Tank.



Write: Ask SAM, 418 N. Marshall St., Winston-Salem, NC 27101


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