The Easter Story

When you think of Easter, you probably have visions of bunnies and chicks, plus a longing to eat delicious chocolate. But what do delicious chocolate recipes have to do with Easter? And why do Easter crafts and decorations celebrate the Easter Bunny fit in to the mix if Easter is supposed to be about the resurrection of Christ?

History of Easter
You might be wondering if maybe you missed the reference to the furry critters in the Bible. Don’t worry, you’re not going crazy; there is no Easter Bunny in the Bible. Many of the traditions and symbols associated with Easter actually stem from the pagan religions.

Every year, the pagan religions would hold spring festivals to celebrate the rebirth of the land. These festivals would occur on or about the time of the vernal equinox. The name Easter is believed to be a derivative of Ostra, the Scandinavian goddess of spring and fertility, and Ostern, the Teutonic goddess of spring and fertility.

In the Christian religion, Easter Sunday marks the resurrection of Christ from the dead, which is said to have proven that he was the Son of God. For those of you not too familiar with the Bible, Jesus was crucified, died and buried on Good Friday, the holiday that comes two days before Easter Sunday. Because the Christian religion celebrates the rebirth, of sorts, of Christ, it is not hard to see how this celebration blended easily with the pagan celebration of spring and awakening.

In the West, Easter is always celebrated on the first Sunday after the vernal equinox. This means that Easter can fall anywhere between March 22nd and April 25th. In the East, Easter is usually celebrated closer to Passover.

Little Chocolate Easter Bunnies
Unlike the lamb, which is a symbol of Jesus Christ and therefore often seen at Easter time, the rabbit has very little basis in Christian tradition. Rather, the image of the rabbit comes from the pagan spring festivals. Since the pagans viewed the rabbit as one of the most fertile animals, rabbits came to be a sign of the new life that began in the spring.

Although the rabbit was common to the pagans, it did not come to be associated with Easter until the 1500s, when this now standard Easter symbol was first mentioned in German writings. During the 1700s, German settlers brought the idea of the Easter Bunny to North America when they began to settle in America. However, the first edible Easter bunny didn’t show up until the early 1800s.

While the Easter Bunny is a pretty common feature of the holiday in North America, he doesn’t bring chocolaty treats to all the girls and boys all over the world. Italy, Belgium and France credit their church bells as bringing the chocolate to the children. This is because the bells don’t ring between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Rumor has it that the bells fly to Rome on Good Friday and as they fly back on Easter Sunday, they drop off Easter eggs to all the homes.

Australia has not had a very good history with rabbits. In fact, Australia became over run with rabbits during the late 1800s (the pagans weren’t wrong when they said that rabbits were fertile creatures!) and has since taken action to stop the destruction of their environment by the rabbits. Understandably, the idea of an Easter Bunny is not met with a lot of enthusiasm Down Under. Instead, the Australians are attempting to promote the Bilby, which looks like a cross between a mouse and a rabbit, as the bearer of Easter chocolate.

Easter Eggs
Perhaps one of the clearest symbols of Easter is the Easter egg, which represents fertility and new life. Since little chicks come from the eggs, they have also become a symbol of Easter.

The tradition of coloring Easter eggs started many, many years ago when people decided to paint the eggs with bright colors. This symbolized the sunlight of spring and the eggs were given to loved ones as a gift. Gradually, this tradition evolved into the current practices of dying Easter eggs and giving Easter treats.

How Easter eggs are decorated tends to vary throughout the world. While North Americans like to dye theirs in soft pastel shades, the Greeks prefer to stick to their religious roots and paint their eggs bright red to represent the blood of Christ. In Armenia, eggs are hollowed out and then decorated with different religious images, like a picture of Jesus Christ or of the Virgin Mary.

One Easter decoration that is cropping up more and more in North America is the Easter tree. Much like the Christmas tree, the Easter tree has it roots in Germany. At Easter time, Germans enjoy blowing out their eggs and then hanging them on the trees and shrubs around their home.

The Ukrainians have become well known for their pysanky eggs. The literal translation of pysanky means "to write," which is exactly what you do to create these stunning Ukrainian Easter eggs. To make these eggs, you need a steady hand and a lot of patience. While the process can be frustrating at times, the end result is always worth it.

Have a Happy Easter!