By Annie Osteen
Springtime is certainly the season of warmer weather, thunderstorms, along with tulips and daffodils gracing our garden after a winter’s nap. We are hopeful as we say goodbye to the snow, cold temperatures and darker days. In this country, and in several countries around the world, springtime also means the Easter holiday is upon us, which encompasses a myriad of traditions, new and old.
In a culture where a new generation is taking over and making plans to strip away traditions such as saying “Merry” in “Merry Christmas,” and pretending that Christ didn’t play a major part in what Christmas means, Easter is closely followed with trying to remain politically correct. However, for many Christians, Easter is the pivotal holiday in which Jesus Christ takes center stage. It’s a holiday symbolizing life and death and most importantly, victory over evil. And while those politically correct and critical protesters are trying to write a new story for America, there are many of us who continue to flip through the traditional book that made America so great.
Long-established, holy Easter customs still continue to play a heavy role in many lives around the world, while others view these practices as “too close to religion” to take part, taking a more simple approach with celebrating the day. However, there’s no denying that the non-religious traditions that have comfortably made their way into sharing the Easter holiday with Christ, are enjoyed by most families in modern day America.
Even though most of us know the meaning behind Easter- the resurrection of Christ after being crucified on the cross, the utmost symbolic event in a Christian’s life; Do we know the meaning behind some of the most common traditions during the Easter season?
For instance, the Easter egg. How did we come to use an egg as one of the key commercial icons of the Easter season? There are a few theories about how the egg became popular. One in particular was the tale of the Easter bunny bringing eggs to the community that began as a German tradition, brought to the United States with settlers from southwestern Germany in the 1800’s. The Christian custom of the Easter egg can be traced back to early Christians who stained eggs red in memory of the blood of Christ. Others have said that the egg was something typically given up during the season of Lent (the period of 40 days before Easter), so people would paint and embellish them after their time of atonement, eating them on Easter Sunday as a celebratory tradition. Eggs, in many different cultures around the world, have been viewed as a representation of new life and fertility, thus making it a perfect symbol of spring.
Where did the Easter Bunny come from? How does that play into the role of Christ’s resurrection? Well, it doesn’t. The bunny, for lack of a better term, is springtime’s equivalent to Santa Claus and allows children to relish in the idea of finding Easter baskets and eggs that he leaves. Some believe that the intense nature of the life and death of what Easter ultimately represents to Christians is too intense for small children to understand. Therefore, the bunny serves as a playful, innocent distraction.
Some folks maintain that the word Easter stems from Eostre, a pagan goddess of spring and fertility. According to folklore, Eostre found a bird dying from the cold and turned it into a rabbit, so its fur would keep it warm, but the rabbit still laid eggs like a bird. In one adaptation of the story, the bunny paints and decorates the eggs as an offering to Eostre to show his love and devotion.
Regardless of cultural narratives or religious beliefs, the bunny, along with painting eggs and egg hunts, delight us when we watch our kids get a similar excitement to that of Santa Claus and his presents.
Then there’s that beloved chocolate. Shaped as bunnies or eggs, it will always find a way into our diet during Easter time, along with a vast array of jelly beans and marshmallow Peeps. Easter is the second best-selling candy holiday in the United States, after Halloween. According to the National Confectioners Association, over 16 billion jelly beans are made in the U.S. each year for Easter, enough to fill a colossal egg measuring 89 feet high and 60 feet wide. Peeps, created in the 1950’s by a Russian immigrant, has also been the top selling non-chocolate Easter candy for the last fifteen years.
There are many more Easter traditions that have come and gone over the last century, such as wearing white for the first time since Labor Day or Easter bonnets that were typically worn by ladies celebrating Easter to show off for family and friends. Some traditions remain steadfast in our culture, while others have slowly dissipated into memories from an older generation.
Easter has always been a time of family and of celebrating religious Christian beliefs that, for many of us, still hold a special place in our hearts, giving new meaning to life and to what’s important in our own world.