This weekend our Christian friends celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ which starts tomorrow with Good Friday. Most of us are very familiar with the story of the Last Supper, Christ’s Crucifiction, and his resurrection from the dead three days later. So, if Easter is supposed to be about the death and rebirth of Jesus Christ, then how did we get bunnies, chickies, and colored eggs mixed in.
Well, there is some debate, but the theory that I tend to believe is that the church had a hard time converting pagans from their familiar and from what I know of them, fun, traditions of celebrating the spring and its triumph of life over death, read spring over winter, and the renewal of life in the world. Old Christians observed this and slowly started incorporating the pagan celebrations into the Easter story to get pagans to relate better to the new religion.
Fast forward to Medieval times, and the church forbids the use of eggs during Lent. So to preserve the eggs, they were boiled. To make them a nice treat for children and servants, they were dyed bright colors and given as gifts, hidden to be searched for, or used as parts of games. These traditions live on today in the dying of Easter eggs, Easter egg hunts, and egg rolls. Easter marks the end of Lent.
So, where did the Bunny come in? Well, lets fast forward to the settling of Pennsylvania and the German families there. In Germany, and elsewhere in Europe as well, the rabbit was associated with spring and is considered a fertility symbol. In the spring, the bunny was supposed to lay eggs for children to find which would help bring abundance and prosperity back to the land. Those early German families brought the Easter bunny with them and spread it to a wider audience in the new land.
Why is Easter on a different day every year? Well, let’s take the trip back to the era of Constantine and the council of Nicaea. During this time, the new bigwigs of the newly recognized Christian religion decided that Easter would not be celebrated on a certain date, but instead on the first Sunday either on or following the first full moon after the Spring Equinox. Which, by the way, many modern pagans consider to be Ostara or Eostare, the celebration of spring and the honoring of an old Anglo-Saxon goddess which brings us back around to where the traditions of Easter started. Some believe that the name of Easter evolved from the spring equinox.
No matter what you believe, I hope that you and yours have a very happy and safe Easter.