As my wife and I were picking out some Easter treats for the grandchildren a discussion arose about how Easter eggs, Easter Bunnies and all things chocolate became symbols of the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
It’s one of those things that, I guess, we just take for granted. Things that we did with our parents while growing up and we’ve passed the traditions on to our children and their children and we don’t really look deeply into why we do it or what they represent. We just do it.
Maybe a lot of you readers know the details behind these traditions but when I did a little research and a straw poll of relatives and acquaintances about the history of Easter eggs and the Easter Bunny many of them didn’t know either so I did what every other curious person would do and I Googled it. And here’s what I found out.
The practice of colouring eggshell is ancient, predating Christian traditions. Ostrich eggs with engraved decoration that are 60,000 years old have been found in
Africa. The Christian custom of the Easter egg can be
traced as far back as the early Christians of Mesopotamia, who stained eggs red
in memory of the blood of Christ, shed at his crucifixion. The Christian Church
officially adopted the custom, regarding the eggs as a symbol of the
The Easter egg tradition was also influenced by the fact that eggs were originally forbidden during Lent and since chickens wouldn’t stop producing eggs during this time hard boiling the eggs was used as a way of preserving them, then, with the coming of Easter, the eating of eggs resumes and the boiled eggs were consumed. Many Christians adopted the practice of dying and painting the eggs. Although the tradition is to use dyed or painted chicken eggs, a modern custom emerged substituting them with chocolate eggs or plastic eggs filled with candy.
The hare was a popular motif in medieval church art. In ancient times, it was widely believed that the hare was a hermaphrodite and the idea that a hare could reproduce without loss of virginity led to an association with the Virgin Mary, with hares sometimes occurring in illuminated manuscripts and paintings of the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child.
The Easter Bunny is a folkloric figure depicted as a hare bringing Easter eggs. The “Easter Hare” originated with German Lutherans. The custom of an Easter hare bringing Easter eggs for children was first recorded in writing in 1682. According to legend, only good children received gifts of coloured eggs in the nests that they made in their caps and bonnets before Easter.
The egg was also a symbol of rebirth in pre-Christian celebrations of spring. As a Christian Easter symbol the egg is likened to the tomb from which Christ arose. Protestant Christian Reformer Marin Luther is credited with starting the tradition of the Easter Egg Hunt where the men hid the eggs for the women and children went along. Christian Scholar Mary Jane Pierce Norton states that, “there’s something about going to hunt the eggs just as we might go to hunt for Jesus in the tomb. When we find them it’s that joy that the women had when they reached the tomb first and found Jesus was no longer there.”
I hope I may have satisfied your curiosity as well as mine. Enjoy your Easter weekend celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ while honouring its many long-practiced traditions.
“Easter is meant to be a symbol of hope, renewal, and new life.”-Janine di Giovanni.