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Little-Known Easter Facts!

For a time, legendary actor John Barrymore was considered particularly devout for his re-enactment of the Easter story, in which he feigned death on Friday evening, remained confined to his bed throughout Saturday, and finally rose and publicly re-emerged on Sunday morning. Later, it was discovered that the celebrated drunkard was simply passing out and sleeping off the effects of a particularly bad hangover, and this was more of a weekly event than an annual one.

Before hitting on the idea of chocolate bunnies, chocolatiers marketed candy effigies of religious figures, including a crucified Jesus Christ, though these proved unpopular with the public. However, a tradition developed of commemorating the decapitation of Jesus' cousin and forerunner, John the Baptist, by heartily biting off the head of his chocolate figure.

Had the Gregorian calendar not been introduced in 1582 to correct increasing inaccuracies in the earlier Julian calendar, within a century, Christians would have found themselves in the confusing situation of commemorating Jesus Christ's rebirth on Easter Sunday three days before his death on Good Friday, rather than the other way around. In addition, the fast of Lent would have extended almost year-round, leading to widespread malnutrition, while the holiday of Pentacost would have been bloated into Hexacost.

Marshmallow Peeps candy is chemically similar to those novelty business cards made of compressed sponge that expand dramatically in water. In 1982, this similarity was successfully exploited by Israeli Nazi-hunters who surreptitiously replaced the Easter candy of a fugitive war criminal living in Argentina with a deadly substitute, rupturing his stomach and killing him.

The name "Easter" is thought to be derived from the name of an Anglo-Saxon goddess called Eostre, who is in turn sometimes linked to the better known Babylonian goddess Ishtar. Because of this link and because of their desire to commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ by themselves experiencing a painful ordeal in a desert setting, many traditionally mark this time of year with repeated screenings of the 1987 Warren Beatty/Dustin Hoffman box-office bomb Ishtar.

Easter is one of many festivals tied to the vernal equinox, which marks the return of spring and a renewal of the earth, which is why Easter symbols include rabbits and eggs-both ancient symbols of fertility. In urban areas, anthropologists note that these two are being increasingly joined by a new Easter symbol of fertility: an unwed pregnant teenager pushing a baby stroller.

The computations for determining the date of Easter are highly complicated and have been determined through formulae devised by such historical figures as the Venerable Bede and the mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss. However, during the 1980s jangle-pop music scene, the holiday was simply observed on the birthday of Mitch Easter, noted as the frontman of Let's Active and the producer of the R.E.M. albums Chronic Town through Reckoning.

In the north of England, a popular children's game involves players striking each other's hard-boiled Easter eggs with their own. The winner is the holder of the last unbroken egg. There is no religious significance to this pastime; it is simply a useful method of teaching the rudiments of head-butting to future soccer hooligans.

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