Easter Traditions and Their Interesting Meanings
It is the week before Easter, and the weather at my house has been unseasonably cold. Easter is synonymous with springtime, but with the chilly temperatures and icy wind, the dogwood tree isn’t blooming yet and the tulip bulbs aren’t sure if they should open. Even with the colder temperatures, Easter traditions at our house have definitely started.
Growing up in a Christian home, I was taught at an early age about the religious meaning of Easter. I knew that Good Friday was the day that Jesus died on the cross and Easter Sunday was the day he rose from the dead. But, even as a child in Sunday school, they had Easter egg hunts for the kids. It was a tradition.
Where did the tradition of the Easter Bunny come from?
There are a lot of Easter traditions, but do you know where they come from or what they all mean? For instance, why in the world would a bunny deliver eggs? That makes absolutely no sense at all, but we all just act like it’s perfectly normal. Rabbits deliver their babies live. The little baby bunnies don’t hatch from an egg, so when did civilization start pretending that a rabbit, who walks on two legs, by the way, bounces around with a basket full of colorful eggs? And the craziest part of all is that it took me this long in my life to actually start searching for answers!
First, let’s clear something up. There is NOWHERE in the bible that talks about a mythical rabbit creature who hops from house to house, delivering chocolates or colorful eggs. Trust me on this one. It’s not even in the New Testament.
According to Time Magazine, one theory is that the symbol of the rabbit stems from the ancient pagan tradition called the festival of Eostre. This festival honored the goddess of fertility and spring. The animal symbol for the goddess was a rabbit, and everybody knows the reputation rabbits have with high reproduction rates and fertility, so this somehow makes a certain amount of sense.
Why would a rabbit deliver eggs? Shouldn’t he deliver baby bunnies?
But how do we make the leap from the rabbit and fertility to the Easter Bunny, who is a character that brings children eggs? It turns out that we may have Germany to thank for this one. In the 1700’s, German immigrants in Pennsylvania reportedly brought over their tradition of an egg-laying hare named “Osterhase” or “Oschter Haws” from the Old Country.
The legend was that the bunny would lay bright, colorful eggs and give them as gifts to children who were good. So, the children would make nests and leave out carrots for the bunny to eat, in the hopes that the bunny would come during the night and the nest would be filled with beautiful eggs. Over time, the tradition caught on and spread across America, and it became a widespread Easter tradition. As time went on, the Easter Bunny’s gifts came to include chocolates and toys.
Are we supposed to believe that the bunny actually LAID the eggs?
As I mentioned earlier, what’s the deal with the rabbit laying eggs? This seems like someone along the way may not have had a firm grasp on biology and where baby bunnies came from. Because it wasn’t from eggs!
It is believed that because eggs are considered an ancient symbol of rebirth and new life, they became associated with the springtime celebration of Easter.
To bring it all back to the religious beliefs of Christians, Easter eggs represent the resurrection of Jesus, as he emerged from the tomb on the third day after his crucifixion. As far as the eggs being colored, this tradition may date all the way back to the 13th century, when eggs were forbidden during the Lent season. People would decorate eggs as the fasting period ended, and this added to the celebration of feasting on Easter Sunday.
A little about our family’s Easter traditions
Traditions of any kind are very big in my family. This includes religious traditions, holiday traditions, and cultural traditions, and many traditions started with something I just did more than one year in a row – hence, becoming another “family tradition”. Traditions were always super important to me, and they, in turn, became just as important to our kids.
First, My Husband’s Traditions
My husband, who’s about American as apple pie, wasn’t actually born in the U.S.A. He was born in Beirut, Lebanon to a Lebanese dad and an Armenian mom, and they came to the United States when my husband was about 8 or 9. It wasn’t until he was dating me that he actually participated in and/or found out about things like carving pumpkins, decorating colorful Easter Eggs, getting Easter baskets, leaving cookies & milk out for Santa and getting a stocking filled with goodies. It’s not that he grew up without traditions, because he had many. It’s just that his traditions growing up were different from mine.
For instance, he didn’t color Easter eggs as a kid. His mom would just put all of the eggs in a pot with red food coloring, and all of the Easter eggs were red. His mom would then bake an Easter bread and the eggs were woven into the dough before it was baked. She still does that, to this day, and we love that bread! I was curious about the red eggs, though, so I looked it up. My husband isn’t Greek, but he was raised in a Greek Orthodox church. I found out that the belief is that the red represents the color of the blood of Christ from the sacrifice he made, and the hard egg shell represents the Tomb of Christ.
Another of my husband’s family Easter traditions was that they would play a game at the Easter dinner table. Everyone would get a hard-boiled egg and each person would tap their egg against another person’s egg. The object was to break the other person’s shell without having your own shell break. Whoever’s shell remains unbroken will have luck throughout the year. I love this tradition.
Easter Traditions with our kids
- Color hard-boiled Easter eggs. Use crayons, stickers, glitter dye, tie dye, marble dye. The more of those little egg dyeing kits sitting all over our newspaper covered kitchen table, the better.
- Here’s a blog post showing several ways to color eggs: https://celebrationelevation.com/blog/pretty-easter-eggs-and-3-methods-for-decorating-them/
- Usually the day before Easter, we would take the kids to an Easter egg hunt, either at church, or at a local park where they were hosting a neighborhood hunt. There was usually someone in an Easter Bunny costume, and my kids were always terrified of them, so we didn’t usually get to take their picture with him.
- Homemade cinnamon rolls on Easter morning. These are delicious cinnamon rolls that I make with yeast the night before Easter, and they get baked in the morning. (Note: these are the same cinnamon rolls that I make every Christmas morning, as well)
- Find your Easter basket. When the kids were little, we would hide their baskets, and they would have to find their own.
- Check out all the goodies in the Easter baskets. There were always the usual Cadbury Crème Eggs, Cadbury Mini-Eggs, jelly beans, a chocolate Easter Bunny and other assorted edible eggs and bunnies. When the kids were little, the baskets also contained little toys, Matchbox cars, card games, stickers, etc. These days (yes, my kids are all in their 20’s, and yes, they still get Easter baskets. Including my daughter-in-law, of course.), they still get candy, usually with a gift card to some place to eat.
- After all of the goodies are dumped out of the basket, the searching for Easter eggs would ensue. There were always a few places that were well-known hiding spots. We would usually unscrew a lightbulb in a lamp and put an egg in it’s place. Always one behind the curtains, on the window sill. I think it was in their early teens that they stopped humoring me and refused to do the whole Easter egg hunt, but I look forward to hiding them for grandchildren, one day.
Make New Traditions
Easter traditions are fun. I think any traditions you bring from your own childhoods or the ones you start with your own kids are fun, and the memories of them all will be the subject of many family dinner conversations for years to come. I look forward to seeing which of our family traditions our kids will carry on with their own families, and I will encourage them to start new traditions of their own.
Whether they are traditions that have been in your family for years or traditions that you started yourself, they are the ingredients to what really makes holiday celebrations special. Talk to your kids about them and let them learn where the traditions came from and when they started. Ask them if there’s something they would like to make part of your own family traditions. Maybe it’s a book they read out loud to you about the holiday, maybe it’s a special breakfast that you make together or a game that you play. Whatever it is, I guarantee your kids will look back on them with laughter and love for years to come.
I don’t have my parents here anymore to celebrate with, but the memories of our traditions keep them with me all the time.
IF YOU’D LIKE TO MAKE SOME LAST MINUTE EASTER DECORATIONS, WATCH THIS VIDEO!
Happy Easter! Celebrate springtime and make memories.