The History Behind Easter

On March 27, Christians alike will celebrate Easter; a day to recognize Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Easter has been stated to be Christianity’s most important holiday.

It is unique from other holidays because it falls on a different day every year, making it known as a “moveable feast.” It doesn’t have a set date because Christian churches in the West celebrate Easter on the first Sunday following the full moon after the vernal equinox on March 21, recognizing the day anywhere between March 22 and April 25 every year. “Orthodox Christians use the Julian calendar to calculate when Easter will occur and typically celebrate the holiday a week or two after the Western churches, which follow the Gregorian calendar” – this according to History.com.

Why do we call it Easter? There is no solid answer to this question, as no one really knows the origin of the name. According to the History Channel, some sources “claim the word Easter is derived from Eostre, the Teutonic goddess of spring and fertility.” Other claims the name has traces “to the Latin term hebdomada alba, or white week, an ancient reference to Easter week and the white clothing donned by people who were baptized during that time.”

Some people might think of Easter as a one-day holiday. However, it is not a single-day observance. Easter is an entire season on its own; Lent, which began on February 10 this year, is a 40-day period where Christians participate in activities to grow closer to God, such as fasting, prayer, and focusing on simple living. Lent represents “the 40 days that Jesus spent alone in the wilderness before starting his ministry, a time in which Christians believe he survived various temptations by the devil.”

Mardi Gras, which is also known as “Fat Tuesday,” is the day before lent where people celebrate their last “hoorah” before the fasting begins.

So why do we have chocolate eggs, a big white Easter bunny, and Easter pastel colored candy? The origins of these customs are unknown, but some sources say they came from other cultures.

Many sources, such as History.com, say the Easter bunny “first arrived in America in the 1700s with German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania and transported their tradition of an egg-laying hare called ‘Osterhase’ or ‘Oschter Haws.’” The article goes on to say:

“Their children made nests in which this creature could lay its colored eggs. Eventually, the custom spread across the U.S. and the fabled rabbit’s Easter morning deliveries expanded to include chocolate and other types of candy and gifts, while decorated baskets replaced nests. Additionally, children often left out carrots for the bunny in case he got hungry from all his hopping.”

The Easter bunny is similar to Santa Claus; he is said to carry around a basket with candy, colorful eggs, and gifts for obedient children. Santa Claus doesn’t have a basket full of eggs and candy, but he is a mythical figure who gives presents to obedient children.

Another myth that explains the figure of the Easter bunny is the animal itself. “Rabbits, known to be prolific procreators, are an ancient symbol of fertility and new life,” which can be connected to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Easter egg, also called Paschal Eggs, are decorated eggs that are given as gifts on Easter. Some sources say this is a way to celebrate new life. The History Channel says that eggs are linked to pagan traditions, but other online sources, such as Topmarks and The Holiday Spot say this is unlikely, because there is no evidence for it.

According to Holiday Spot, at the Jewish ritual feast, Passover Seder, “a hard-boiled egg dipped in salt water symbolizes both new life and the Passover sacrifice offered at the Temple in Jerusalem. The ancient Persians painted eggs for Nowrooz —  their New Year celebration falling on the Spring Equinox. This tradition has continued every year on Nowrooz since ancient times.”

The article claims the decorating of Easter eggs is an established form of art.

However, the History Channel takes a different look on these decorated eggs:

“The egg, an ancient symbol of new life, has been associated with pagan festivals celebrating spring. From a Christian perspective, Easter eggs are said to represent Jesus’ emergence from the tomb and resurrection. Decorating eggs for Easter is a tradition that dates back to at least the 13th century, according to some sources. One explanation for this custom is that eggs were formerly a forbidden food during the Lenten season, so people would paint and decorate them to mark the end of the period of penance and fasting, then eat them on Easter as a celebration”

Sometimes, non-religious folks celebrate Easter because of the fun activities that come with it. Easter can be a fun way to spend a Sunday with the kids, hiding plastic eggs filled with candy and other treats around the house making for a Sunday candy scavenger hunt.

Leave a Reply