Apr 05, 2012
By Scott P. Moore
Standard Staff Reporter
After celebrating the holiday of Easter for years on end, many Christians still ask themselves to this day what exactly the Easter Bunny, colored and decorated eggs and the resurrection of Jesus Christ have to do with each other. The answer, well, might actually shock you.
Nothing. Well, not at least directly.
Both the Easter Bunny and the decorated Easter Egg have their roots in Anglo-Saxon pagan traditions. In fact the holiday of Easter owes its name to one of these pagan holidays – Eostra, a celebration of a goddess of the same name whose earthly symbol was the rabbit. The goddess, according to a report by Discovery, was renowned for fertility and the rabbit became a symbol because of their high (and quick) reproduction rate. Generally, the festivals for this goddess were held on or around the Vernal Equinox, which falls on or about March 20th in modern-times. These beliefs started being celebrated in the second century and were still popular into the 13th century in Europe. Much of this was mixed together with other pagan beliefs, such as the use of December 25th as the day of Jesus’ birth, as Christianity became the dominant religion across Europe. This was done, according to an early Christian writer called the Venerable Bede, to make those deeply ingrained in pagan beliefs more likely to give them up. As the two religions blended together, the rabbit became more closely associated with the new life of Jesus after his resurrection.
The egg, too, has some origins here. Eggs are traditionally seen throughout pagan religions across Europe as symbols of fertility and the new life that Spring brings with it. Even the Ancient Greeks and Romans used eggs as a symbol of fertility. During the 1500’s, the area of Europe encompassed by Germany today gave birth to a similar tradition of today’s Easter Bunny – the rabbit Oschter Haws who laid colored eggs, according to About.com. This tradition later came to the United States through German immigrants that settled in North America, more specifically in Pennsylvania.
Chocolate eggs were a more recent addition, appearing in France and Germany during the 19th century. The Cadbury chocolate company began mass producing what became the popular chocolate and cream-filled eggs. Since this introduction, Easter has become one of the largest candy-selling days across the country.
Of course, many of these traditions and the history that goes along with Easter have been forgotten, but the holiday lives on. As some of its past becomes more relevant, some Christian sects have decided to cut out the pagan references within the holiday by even changing the name to “Resurrection Sunday.” Nevertheless, Easter Bunnies and colored eggs are now a part of our modern culture – a call from our ancestors’ past that lives on to today.
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