We’ve all seen the Cadbury commercial with the Easter bunny clucking like a chicken, and although it’s a silly commercial, the confusion of symbols is right in line with the strangeness of Easter. Eggs, the Easter Bunny, egg hunts and even the name ”Easter” all have fairly odd origins.
The History of Easter Eggs
Although there’s nothing new about egg decoration (since anthropologists discovered engraved ostrich eggs 60,000 years old), their application to the Christian holiday celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus began with ancient Christians in Mesopotamia. This group borrowed the Egyptian practice of placing eggs at graves and adapted it, dying the eggs blood-red to symbolize the blood of Christ. Eggs became an official symbol of the holiday in the 17th century under Pope Paul V. Thankfully, blood-red eggs are only the norm in Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches, while Western churches enjoy a spectrum of multi-colored eggs.
The History of the Easter Bunny
The Easter Bunny is another famed symbol of the holiday, and the origin of its association with the Easter holiday comes from several theories. A rabbit’s ability to give birth several times a year while seemingly maintaining its virginity led to its use on many medieval and late Gothic artwork, with Church officials comparing it to the Virgin Mary. Before Christianity, rabbits and hares became associated with spring as a symbol of renewal and rebirth.
The History of Easter Practices
The pagan German holiday Eostre is the undisputed the namesake of the Christian holiday. That holiday’s practices melded with the Christian holiday’s beliefs and by the 18th century, it firmly took hold. In the holiday’s Northwest European origins, a hare (or bunny) would offer good children gifts of colored eggs, candies and fruits, which would be left in hats and bonnets (the style of the now-traditional Easter basket).
The History of Easter Egg Hunts
This particular custom is fairly new, and comes from anecdotal tales in German which became a practice in England and then in America. German families used to hide the colored eggs around homes for children to find as simple recreation, but the practice soon took hold in England. Now, even the White House has a yearly Easter Egg Hunt and Roll.
History.com. “The History of Easter.” 2014. Retreived from http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/history-of-easter
Dominguez, Trace. “What Does the Easter Bunny Have to do with Easter?” April 6, 2012. http://news.discovery.com/history/what-does-easter-bunny-come-have-to-do-easter-120406.htm