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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Bunnies, colored eggs--How do they relate to the meaning of Easter?

       Even the youngest child recognizes the Easter bunny, basket filled with dyed eggs, or a yellow chick as being symbols of the holiday.  How did they become related to the meaning of the Cruxifiction.  A little research reveals many reasons and multiple explanations.  Here are a few of the more common ones:

The Name "Easter"
In the early Christian days, pagan symbols and practices were incorporated into Christianity because they were familiar to people and, therefore, more acceptable to them. Eostre was an Anglo-Saxon pagan goddess of spring and fertility.  Easter comes from her name.  

Easter Bunny--German settlers brought the Easter bunny to America in the 1700's.  The rabbit or hare was a symbol of fertility because of its ability to procreate abundantly. German children were told stories of an "Easter hare" who laid eggs for children to find. Parents also baked cakes for Easter in the shape of hares, which may have started the tradition of baking chocolate bunnies and eggs. 

Colored Eggs and Baby Chicks--Easter eggs are probably related to pagan traditions.  They are an ancient symbol of new life.  They were associated with pagan festivals honoring spring. Coloring eggs for Easter dates back to the 13th century.  A possible explanation is that the egg was a forbidden food during Lent.  Eggs that were laid during that time were preserved by boiling or other means and colored and decorated.  Then on Easter when Lent was over, the people celebrated by eating the eggs.  The egg is also a symbol of the rock tomb out of which Christ came when he rose again. 
Orthodox Christians in Greece and the Middle East painted eggs red to symbolize the blood of Christ.  Germans gave green eggs as gifts and hung hollow eggs on trees.  
The chick hatching out of the egg, represents new life and re-birth.

Easter Candy--Only Halloween is a better selling candy holiday than Easter.  Chocolate eggs, jelly beans, marshmallow Peeps are all best sellers at Easter.  The eggs and jelly beans have the shape long associated as symbols of new life and therefore, the Resurrection.

New Easter Clothes--Wearing new hats and clothes at Easter symbolizes new life offered by the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Easter Parades--In Medieval Europe, churchgoers would take a walk after mass, led by a crucifix.  These walks were the start of Easter parades.  People like to show off their Easter clothes and hats.  In New York City, the Easter Parade goes back to the mid-1800's when people would again take a walk after church services to display their Easter finery.  
In 1948, Fred Astaire and Judy Garland were featured in the film Easter Parade.  This settled the tradition.  The parade lives on in Manhattan with Fifth Avenue from 49th Street to 57th being shut down for the event.  It serves no religious purpose, but Easter processions have been part of Christianity since early days.  

Easter is also a celebration of spring with flowers and baby animals.

Sources of information for this article:
Cirlot, J.E., A Dictionary of Symbols, Philosophical Library, New York: 1962.
The Holiday Spot 
Easter Symbols Easter Symbols and Traditions

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