Look at the Easter Symbolism

Which Came First – the Easter Bunny or the Easter Egg?

Ellen Pardoe, Yahoo! Contributor Network
Apr 11, 2006 “Contribute content like this.

What do cute little bunnies and colored eggs have to do with a religious holiday like Easter? Easter is one of the most sacred of Christian holidays and yet, like Christmas, it is associated with non-Christian symbols.
So how are bunnies, eggs, and Easter connected? The beloved Easter bunny was the sidekick of Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring, whose festival was held at the vernal equinox. The hare was a symbol of fertility. One fable has Eostre creating the bunny (actually a hare) from a bird as a treat for her children. The bunny was unhappy that it was no longer a bird so Eostre allowed it to lay eggs once a year. But the bunny missed flying, too, so Eostre cast it into the night sky, creating the constellation, Lepus. Easter owes its name to Eostre, according to the 8th century historian, St. Bede. He believed that the early Anglo-Saxons used the name Easter as a way to attract Pagans to Christianity.

The Germans, according to folk tradition, began associating the bunny with the Easter holiday in the early 1500’s. The Pennsylvania-Dutch brought the tradition to the US in the 1700’s. Known as Oschter Haws, the bunny would deliver its colored eggs to the secluded nests created by the children. Boys would use their caps and girls their bonnets; though the celebration of Easter and the adoption of the Easter bunny did not gain national practice until after the Civil War.

Eggs, another symbol of fertility, also have their roots in other religions and traditions. The ancient Egyptians and Persians would give multi-colored eggs to one another at the dawning of the Spring Equinox. Crimson eggs, to honor the blood of Christ, are exchanged in Greece. In parts of Germany and Austria green eggs are used on Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday). Slavic peoples decorate their eggs in special patterns of gold and silver. dye. After each dip wax is painted over the area where the preceding color is to remain. Eventually a complex pattern of lines and colors emerges into a work of art.

It was in the early 1800’s that chocolate eggs were first created in Germany and France and their popularity grew quickly throughout Europe and beyond. The first eggs were solid chocolate and were soon followed by hollow ones. Although making hollow eggs at that time was no mean feat because the easily worked chocolate we us today did not exist then. They had to use a paste made from ground roasted cacao beans.
By the turn of the 19th century, the discovery of the modern chocolate making process and improved mass manufacturing methods meant that the chocolate Easter egg was fast becoming the gift of choice throughout Europe and the world.
Easter baskets originate from the ancient Catholic custom of taking the food for Easter dinner to mass to be blessed. This mirrored the ancient ritual of bringing the first crops and seedlings to the temple to insure a good growing season. This practice, combined with the Pennsylvania-Dutch practice of creating “rabbit’s nests,” has evolved into the brightly colored containers filled with sweets and toys. Regardless of how you celebrate Easter, or if you do, the fact that it is here again is in itself a cause for celebration. It means that the days are longer, the flowers are blooming, the windows are open more, and the earth is renewing itself. Happy Easter, all!

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