Origins of Easter Holiday Traditions: Stories provide the origin of Easter’s Bunny, Egg Hunt and Basket
Today’s Easter tradition usually includes children waking up to find that an Easter Bunny has left them a basket filled with candy and has hidden their colorful eggs for them to hunt for. But where did these customs come from? A bunny? A basket? An egg hunt?
Origins of Easter Celebration
Easter falls on the first Sunday on or following the spring Equinox after a full moon. All traditional for the holiday’s customs represent a greeting of spring and mark re-birth and new beginnings in some way.
Pre-Christian fertility lore dictates that originally, the holiday was a pagan celebration worshipping the goddess Eastre. An annual festival was held at the vernal equinox for this goddess of spring and fertility. With the German name of Ostara, our word for the female hormone “estrogen” derives from her name.
For Christians, Easter is a glorious religious celebration to observation of their belief that Jesus Christ rose resurrected three days after his crucifixion. The pagan holiday occurred in the same timeframe as the memorial of Jesus’ resurrection and when Anglo-Saxons were converted to Christianity, there was a natural blending of pagan and Christian symbols as the day was given the name Easter.
The rabbit was among the most fertile animals known and they came to depict new life and Spring. A natural figure of fertility, it’s no wonder why the animal became the goddess Eastre’s symbol—It’s representative of renewal and new beginnings!
The Egg Hunt
Children believed that rabbits laid eggs in the grass and would search the grounds for them, thus beginning the custom of the Easter egg hunt. The importance of eggs during the holiday has several meanings. For Christians, eggs are considered “the seed of life” and so they are symbolic of rebirth in the same way that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is. Many cultures gave decorated eggs as a gift to loved ones. For instance, in Denmark, for Gaekkebrev cards (a card containing a rhyme written by the man but is not traditionally signed by him) traditionally given on Valentine’s Day, if the woman guesses the correct name of the card giver, she will receive an egg from him on Easter.
The origin of the Easter basket lie in Catholic rituals. On Easter morning, baskets filled with food that were to be used for Easter dinner were taken to mass for a blessing. Over time, the baskets were filled with gifts and candies for children that were said to be left behind by the Easter Bunny, celebrating revitalization of nature, faith and the second coming of Jesus