In 2004, a Brand staff writer, Starla Bailiff, answered the age-old question of where the weird Easter traditions of bunnies and easter egg hunts originated. In this week’s ThrowBack Thursday, I will be recapping her research findings.
Easter began as a Pagan holiday celebrating the return of spring by the Saxons, a Germanic group from the Middle Ages. This celebration was paired with feasts that honored their goddess of spring and offspring, Eastre. When the Christian missionaries converted the Saxons to Christianity, the celebration of Eastre and the Christian’s celebration of the resurrection coincidentally occurred at the same time. The Christians agreed to allow the Saxons to continue their celebration of their goddess alongside their own celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. This is how what we know today as Easter, came to be.
The specific date of the celebration of Easter was then decided in 325 A.D. by Constantine. He specified that Easter was to be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox. Due to the vernal equinox always occurring on March 21, Easter was to be on a Sunday between March 22 and April 25.
Bailiff explained that the symbol of the Easter Bunny was celebrated as an earthly symbol of the goddess Eastre by the Saxons. The Germans brought the Easter bunny over to America, but it was not popular until after the Civil War when Easter became a widely celebrated American Holiday.
Easter eggs have actually been around longer than the traditional Christian Easter. Eggs are a symbol of rebirth around the world and were commonly traded around springtime. The wealthy would wrap their eggs in gold leaf, while the less affluent would color their eggs by boiling them in water with different leaves and flower petals.
As Bailiff described in her 2004 article, Easter has many cultures of origin. It has also come a long way from boiling eggs with flower petals. Nonetheless, Easter has a deep history and has become very symbolic to the Christian faith.