The Origin Of Our Favorite Easter Traditions
Why is there an Easter bunny and not a chick, or squirrel or goat for that matter? Why isn’t there an Easter Man or Woman? And, what does the Easter Bunny have to do with the life and death of Christ? Why do we color eggs? Sure they are pretty but how did someone come up with the idea to change their color? And Easter baskets full of candy and toys and, of course, the aforementioned colored eggs – did a clever child who was denied sweets except on special holidays create it? Finally, why is Easter called Easter? Here are some fun facts and legends for you to ponder on this Easter:
The Name – Easter
Although there are varying myths, I think most historians will agree that many of our Easter traditions started in Germany. The word Easter is “believed to be a derivative of Ēostre, the name of the ancient German goddess associated with spring, rebirth, and fertility.” According to Bede (“The Venerable”), a late-seventh-century historian and scholar from Anglo-Saxon England, Easter is celebrated around the vernal equinox “to coincide and replace the pagan celebration of spring.” This is why Easter has no set date on the calendar. “Instead, it’s calculated to fall on the first Sunday [after the] first full moon after the spring equinox.”
The Easter Bunny
There are two theories on this one:
One myth suggests that the “the goddess Ēostre had a thing for rabbits — some legends even describe her as having the head of a hare.” Since Ēostre was the goddess of fertility, and bunnies, as we know, are known for their ability to populate, this makes sense. “According to some twists on Ēostre’s story, the goddess once transformed a bird into a rabbit, which helps to explain why the Easter Bunny is also associated with eggs.”
The 2nd myth is that the Easter Bunny is a folkloric figure and symbol depicted as a rabbit bringing Easter eggs. “Originating among German Lutherans, the “Easter Hare” originally played the role of a judge, evaluating whether children were good or disobedient” at the start of the Easter season. Much like Santa Claus, the Easter hare rewarded good children with an Easter egg hunt. [Click the link to Tweet]
“Easter eggs, are likely linked to pagan traditions. The egg, an ancient symbol of new life, has been associated with pagan festivals celebrating spring. From a Christian perspective, Easter eggs are said to represent Jesus’ emergence from the tomb and resurrection. Decorating eggs for Easter is a tradition that dates back to at least the 13th century, according to some sources. One explanation for this custom is that eggs were formerly a forbidden food during the Lenten season, so people would paint and decorate them to mark the end of the period of penance and fasting, [Click link to Tweet] then eat them on Easter as a celebration.” “[E]arly Christians dyed eggs red to represent the blood shed by Jesus Christ.”
“Easter egg hunts and egg rolling are two popular egg-related traditions. In the U.S., the White House Easter Egg Roll, a race in which children push decorated, hard-boiled eggs across the White House lawn, is an annual event held the Monday after Easter. The first official White House egg roll occurred in 1878, when Rutherford B. Hayes was president. The event has no religious significance, although some people have considered egg rolling symbolic of the stone blocking Jesus’ tomb being rolled away, leading to his resurrection.”
“Easter is the culmination of a long Christian season of celebration and reverence. For 40 days [before] Easter, many Christians choose something to go without for Lent. Food, such as meat, eggs or dairy, is usually chosen for this fasting period. The large feast typically served on Easter celebrates the end of this fast and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In early Christian times, the Easter feast was served in the churches. Food was brought to churches in large baskets and blessed by the clergy before being served. Easter baskets filled with treats originated from this tradition of bringing baskets to church on Easter.” “The tradition of chocolate eggs [as part of the Easter basket] began in 19th-century France and Germany and soon spread to the rest of Europe and eventually the United States,” says Katherine Tegen, the author of The Story of the Easter Bunny. Many Christians are also eager to eat chocolate on Easter because it’s a common modern-day sacrifice during Lent, says Anne Kathryn Killinger, the author of An Inner Journey to Easter.
So there you have it. Enjoy your Easter, this beautiful day, your families and friends and, of course, all the great Easter traditions!
March 27, 2016
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Dr. Keith S. Ungar and Dr. Andrew Kender, Chiropractic Physicians
 Cross, Gary (2004). Wondrous Innocence and Modern American Children’s Culture. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195348133.