History of Easter: Where do we bunnies and eggs come from?

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Easter is next weekend, and like Christmas, there are two sides to the holiday–one is tied to religion, and the other to pagan traditions. For Christians, Easter represents the end of Lent, Passover, and the resurrection of Jesus. The church observes the holiday with a feast.

As for all the decorations you’ve been seeing in grocery stores for the past month or so, there are stories behind those traditions as well. The Easter Bunny, dying hard boiled eggs, and Easter baskets all come from somewhere.

The Bunny

Though the origin of the Easter Bunny isn’t entirely clear, rabbits are known for their producing in rapid numbers, making them symbols of fertility and new life. German immigrants held the belief of an egg-laying bunny called “Osterhase.” Children made nests for the creature to lay colored eggs in around the time of Easter. When the custom spread across the U.S., the deliveries made by the rabbit came to include chocolate and other knick-knacks and gifts. In anticipation of the rabbit’s arrival, kids would also leave out carrots for him in case he got hungry from his hopping.

The Eggs

Eggs also represent new life just like bunnies around the time of Easter, for both pagan celebrations and religious ones. They’re used to celebrate the coming of Spring, as well as stand for Jesus’ resurrection. Decorating eggs dates back to the 13th century when eggs were one of the forbidden foods during Lent. People would paint and decorate them to mark the end of the fasting period, then eat them on Easter. 

There’s more to the eggs than decorating, too. Easter egg hunts and egg rolls are also held around the country. The White House hosts an annual Easter Egg Roll every Monday after Easter, where kids push decorate eggs across the front lawn. The first Egg Roll was held by Rutherford B. Hayes in 1878. Even though this practice doesn’t have any concrete ties to the religious aspect of Easter, some say that rolling eggs can represent the stone that was rolled away from Jesus’ tomb on the day of his resurrection. As for the egg hunts, some believe this also has to do with the tomb of Jesus, and the eggs were hidden so that children would find them and also find the tomb. It also serves as entertainment for children, giving them amusement in the search for the eggs.

The Baskets

Easter Baskets relate back to the Easter Bunny. The nests that children made years ago are now the baskets we see today, which we fill with eggs, candy, and gifts.

It’s still not too late to get some eggs at the store and a decorating kit for just a few bucks. Have your own egg hunt with some friends and get fun prizes at the dollar store!

Drew has lived in San Diego going on two years, and can't imagine living anywhere else. She loves the city's beaches, food, and shows. You can contact her at [email protected].

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