Monday, April 18, 2011

Easter Traditions

Easter is this coming Sunday, so I thought it would be fitting to write a bit about Easter traditions.  Easter, of course, is a Christian holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  But why are brightly colored eggs and a rabbit involved in the holiday?

Like Christmas, some Easter traditions have a pagan influence.  For instance the timing of both of these holidays are very close to times of pagan celebration, in Easter’s case, it always occurs near the time of the Vernal Equinox.  Fertility has long had a connection to the Vernal Equinox and springtime, since it is a time of renewal and in a way, rebirth for the Earth after a long winter.  Eggs and rabbits have long been seen as symbols of fertility.  The connection between eggs and fertility is obvious, but perhaps the connection with rabbits seems less obvious.  But what do we say about a couple that has several children?  They “multiply like rabbits.”  Rabbits typically have large litters and breed often.  In fact, females can become impregnated with a second litter while still pregnant with the first.

Hares were seen as important sacred symbols for the pagan holiday of Eostre.  As time passed, this holiday’s named adapted into “Easter.”

The coloring of eggs is a bit more difficult to pin down.  It is unknown exactly when this tradition started.  But in early days, spring flowers were sometimes used to aid in coloring eggs.  So this can be seen as a celebration of spring.

During the eighteenth century, German immigrants brought the story to America of a hare delivering colored eggs to well behaved children on Easter.  The eggs were left in nests that the children made the night before.  This tradition became more and more widely known, and is the Easter tradition as we know it today.

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