What does a colorful egg hunt, dressing up in your finest Sunday clothing, having ham for dinner, and a white bunny rabbit have in common? The holiday that’s celebrated each year is none other than Easter. We’ll take a look into the all-important religious significance, followed by the ever popular foods and characters associated with this spring festivity. You may never look at Easter the same way again.
Looking Back at Easter
Did you know Easter is the oldest Christian holiday and its most important holiday? The main focus is on the resurrection of Jesus three days after his fatal crucifixion. Each year the date of Easter differs falling anywhere between March 22nd and April 25th. It’s determined by the first Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox.
Easter Egg Hunting
What does Easter eggs and its likeness in the form of candied eggs, jelly beans, and other goodies have to do with a significant religious holiday? The egg represents springtime fertility stemming from pagan religions in Europe and the Middle East. The resurrection also symbolizes a revival from a dead winter. It can also mean the egg represent Jesus’ emergence from the tomb. Colorful eggs and its related treats represent joy and celebration for a new season of springtime.
An Easter egg hunt or egg rolling was first held at the White House in 1878 when President Rutherford B. Hayes was in office. Ever since then the annual White House Easter Egg Roll takes place on the Monday after Easter Sunday.
Easter Parading in Your Finest
In your Easter Bonnet
With all the frills upon it
You’ll be the grandest lady
In the Easter Parade
(From the song “Easter Parade” by Irving Berlin)
One tradition that goes way back is dressing up for Easter Sunday. Some have claimed this came from the 1948 film “Easter Parade” starring Judy Garland and Fred Astaire. In New York City their annual parade dates back to the mid-1800s. Christian churches along posh Fifth Avenue showcased the upper crust of society in their finest dresses, suits, gloves, purses, hats, and bonnets. When I was a child I vividly remember getting an opportunity to go Easter clothes shopping for a dress, gloves, shoes, and hat to wear for church on that day.
Hamming it Up
One very popular Easter tradition is having a ham dinner. This began during colonial times when settlers cured ham for several months during the winter. When the ham was ready to be feasted upon this coincided precisely with Easter. Other traditional Easter foods include hard-boiled eggs, possibly coming from children’s colorful dyed Easter eggs. Roasted lamb is also traditional in other parts of the world for dinner. In northern Europe the pig has always been the favored meat, which has become that way in the U.S.
White Bunny Rabbit Hop
If there is one symbol that captures the essence of Easter, in the cultural sense, it is none other than the bunny rabbit. Known for being prolific procreators they handily epitomize fertility and rebirth. Besides Halloween being the best-selling holiday for candy, Easter is right there hopping behind it. The chocolate bunny is one of its popular Easter treats. Another popular holiday symbol related to the rabbit is the Easter basket. German immigrants in Pennsylvania brought over this tradition of the egg-laying hare. The rabbit would deliver goodies to children in a nest, which later evolved to baskets.