By Yvonne Liu
What do colored eggs and bunnies have to do with Easter? In Christian circles, Easter is celebrated
as a religious holiday, marking the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But the celebrations of Easter have
their roots in pagan customs not associated with religion as well.
Falling in the spring, the word "Easter" is believed to have come from the Scandinavian "Ostra" and
the Teutonic "Ostern," both goddesses symbolizing spring and fertility. The rabbit was hailed as a
symbol of fertility, and thus its eggs were painted in bright colors and given as gifts during this
Of course, the most commonly known celebration of Easter here in the United States is tied to that of
the Christian religion. Children are dressed in their "Easter best," colorful dresses for girls and
neatly pressed suits for boys. Families attend church, followed by a Easter brunch or dinner. There
is the Easter egg hunt and story-telling of the Easter Bunny, too.
Many early Christians were of Jewish origin and hence brought up in the Hebrew tradition. Easter was
then thought of as part of the Passover festival, which is celebrated for 8 days and commemorates the
flight and freedom of the Israelites from in slavery in Egypt. On the other hand, Western churches
observed Easter on the first Sunday after the full moon of the spring equinox. Hence the holiday
does not fall on an exact date each year.
Easter falls at the end of the Lenten season, the 46 days of which followers give something up, much
in the same spirit as that of
Christ and his sacrifice.
The last week of Lent is known as Holy Week, beginning with Palm Sunday, the day Christ entered
Jerusalem and where crowds laid palms at his feet. The Thursday during Holy Week commemorates the
Last Supper. Friday, also known as Good Friday, is the anniversary of the Crucifixion, the day that
Christ died on the cross. Holy Week and Lent end with Easter Sunday, the day of Jesus' resurrection,
which is also considered the church's highest and most important festival.
What About the Eggs?
Again, eggs embody fertility and "new life," and thus play an important symbolic role towards
the resurrection of Jesus. Originally, the eggs were painted in bright colors to represent the
sunlight of spring, but different cultures have developed their own egg decorating ways. For
example, in Greece eggs are painted crimson to honor the blood of Christ.
Eggs are also a part of Easter games. Two traditional games are the Easter egg hunt and the
Easter egg roll. On Easter morning the children join in a search to locate the eggs hidden by
the Easter Bunny while they were asleep. The child who finds the most eggs wins a prize. Many
communities also sponsor community-wide egg hunts by hiding eggs in public places, encouraging
neighbors to interact with each other. The Easter egg roll is simple. Whoever rolls an egg the
farthest without breaking the egg is declared the winner.
What About the Bunny?
A visit from the Easter Bunny is a much anticipated event, second to perhaps Santa Claus.
Introduced to American Easter traditions by German settlers in the 1700s, children believed
if they were good, then the Easter Bunny would lay a nest of colored eggs. Boys would use
their caps and girls would use their bonnets to make the nests. Later on, the tradition of the
Easter basket would spread.
On Easter Sunday, if you see groups of people young and old looking around houses and other
places for colored eggs, don't be alarmed. Feel free to join in. Maybe the Easter Bunny has a
surprise for you!