The Evolution of Easter

By Alysa Lanier

Easter is now a holiday celebrated by many. When people think of Easter, they think of spring, chocolate bunnies and a traditional ham dinner. They do not necessarily think of the religious aspects of this popular holiday. Easter was the day that Jesus rose from the dead after his crucifixion in the Christian religion. It is considered Christianity’s most important holiday. The Easter celebration as we know it today with bunnies, eggs and candy is thought to come from pagan traditions. The word for Easter is suspected to derive from the name of a pagan goddess of spring- Eastra or Oestre. The word estrogen (the female hormone) was also derived from Eastra. The origins of the egg were also probably not Christian.


An ancient symbol for new life is the egg. This symbol has been associate with many Pagan festivals for spring. The Christian explanation for the egg’s association with Easter is that it represents Jesus’s emergence from the tomb. Some sources say that the egg came from the creation stories of Asia and Ireland; these stories told that the earth hatched from an egg. In some cultures, dyed eggs were given as gifts and the decorations on the eggs were said to bring prosperity during the coming year. After Lent, people would decorate the egg to mark the end of Lent and eat them for good luck during Easter celebrations. These celebrations of egg dying date back to the 13th century.

During the rise of Christianity, to shun the “Old Religion,” Judaism, Christians would hide the eggs, which they thought brought good luck. The parents encouraged the children to go and gather the eggs as an Easter egg hunt. The tradition eventually caught on in both religious and non-religious houses. Another egg related tradition, the egg roll, occurred first in 1878 when President Rutherford B. Hayes invited kids to play on the White House lawn. This occurred annually after this and became a traditional game to play on Easter.


Nowhere in the Bible does it mention a bunny that gives out candy and gifts on Easter day, so where did that tradition come from? In the 1700s in Pennsylvania, the German immigrants transported their tradition of an egg laying hare called “Osterhase” or “Oschter Haws.” Oster seem awful close to the word Oestre for the Pagan god of spring. Children made nests for the Oschter Haws where the creature could lay its colorful eggs. Children started leaving carrots for the Easter bunny, like they would leave cookies for Santa on Christmas.


Modern traditions have made Easter more of a candy selling extravaganza than religious practices. When over 90 million chocolate Easter bunnies are made each year and more candy is sold in the Easter season than the Christmas, it’s clear that society has made Easter its own, not entirely religious holiday.

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