Out of the many holidays we celebrate every year, nothing is ever as sweet as Easter. This is the only day besides Halloween where kids can find and have as much candy as they want. Plus, grownups get to be a kid again — designing hand painting eggs, rolling them like crazy, hiding them in the most inconspicuous places for kids to find.
But this long standing tradition has been practiced every year for so long, that we may not know when and where it all started.
Let’s take a look and discover the sweet truth behind our beloved Easter traditions.
A lot of us are led to believe that Easter has and always been a Christian tradition. However, some scholars tell us otherwise.
Writings and researches have surfaced claiming that the Easter egg and its sweet origins existed way before Christianity existed.
Before Christians celebrated the Christ’s resurrection, scholars have argued that ancient pagans all over Europe have already observed a ritual called the Spring Equinox or Vernal Equinox to some.
To further understand what happens during the spring equinox – it is that time of the year when the sun, in its movement along the ecliptic, crosses the celestial equator, making night and day of equal lengths in all parts of the earth.
In ancient times, pagans believed that when the days grew shorter in early winter, it was because their sun-god was leaving them. Since the Spring Equinox makes the day and night of equal lengths, and afterwards would make the days longer again, it meant that the sun god was returning and called for a hefty celebration!
Another argument of Easter’s pagan roots come from the Venerable Saint Bede, who averred that the word Easter was derived from a pagan fertility goddess name “Eostre”.
A depiction of the dawn goddess Eostre was even portrayed in an episode of American Gods as a godess sharing her day of commemoration riding on the fame of Jesus Christ.
As for Saint Bede, One of the more important dates he tried to compute was that of Easter, an effort on his part that was mired with such controversy.
Moreover, the word for Easter can be attributed to other languages as such — Pascua in Spanish and Pasques in French— derives from the Greek and Latin Pascha or Pasch, for Passover.
Easter for Christians
As for Christians, the Easter egg has always been a symbol of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In orthodox and eastern catholic churches, eggs used to be dyed red as a symbol of the blood of Jesus Christ that was shed on the cross. These eggs are then blessed by the priest and distributed to its congregants. They then, crack the hard shell representing the resurrection and rebirth of Christ from the dead.
This practice of dying the eggs and consecrating them has now evolved into what we see as creatively hand painting our Easter eggs and sharing them with friends.
Long Standing Traditions
Easter, perhaps, has been one of the most fun and anticipated of all holidays because of its sweet traditions and games. Kids run around and look forward to hunting for brightly colored hand painted eggs and roll them along.
A typical Easter egg hunt involves hiding eggs outside for children to run around and find on Easter morning. In the US, a yearly event called the Easter Egg Roll is held on the White House lawn each Monday after Easter.
Why Chocolate Easter Eggs?
But then, one will find himself asking: If that’s the history behind Easter, why are the eggs made of chocolate?
As commercialism emerged in the 17th and 18th century, so did the egg shaped toys for Easter. After all, Easter is now becoming a holiday centered on kids.
As toys were given to children together with eggs, the idea of sweets, candy and chocolates in the shape of eggs, also emerged.
However, it wasn’t until the 19th century when the first chocolate Easter eggs were crafted in Germany and France. In the UK, the first chocolate eggs were attributed to JS Fry of Bristol in 1873. Of course, other companies followed suit and the tradition spread like sweet melted chocolate on kid’s mouth.
The Easter Bunny
Now that we know how Easter’s sweet tradition came about, the question one asks is why is Easter symbolized by a bunny? Bunnies don’t lay eggs so why would a bunny give eggs to kids?
This depiction of a bunny giving eggs to kids started out and originate from among German Lutherans. The “Easter Hare” as he was called, originally played the role of a judge (sort of like Santa Claus) who determined whether kids were good or bad. If they were the latter they get no treats, and if they were the former, they get chocolate eggs from the gift giver.
As we take a closer look at this folklore, we will understand that both the rabbit and Easter symbolize fertility and abundance. Easter, symbolizing a fresh start where the days are beginning to be longer, really good for planting and working our way to a good harvest. The latter on the other hand, has always been a symbol of fertility due to their prolific breeding capabilities.
No matter where, when or how this delicious tradition came about, the fact remains the we look forward to it every year. It is after all one of the best holidays for kids and kids at heart!