Easter is a Christian tradition that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus and marks the end of Lent
The spring holiday is today, April 21, 2019. But what exactly is Easter? How are eggs involved? And what’s the deal with the Easter Bunny?
All those questions, and more, are answered in this very, very basic primer.
What is the meaning of Easter?
Easter is a religious holiday in which Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, whose death was commemorated on Good Friday. When Jesus rose from the dead, according to the Bible, he conquered death and thus paved the way to salvation for Christians everywhere. You can read the story for yourself in the Gospels (Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20-21).
If you’re Christian, Easter is what your faith is based on. The crux of Christianity is what Christians call “The Mystery of Faith” which is “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.”
How should we celebrate it?
Christians head to church on Easter Sunday to celebrate. Many churches have services at sunrise, because it was at dawn that Jesus’s tomb was discovered to be empty (Matthew 28:1). Sunrise services are traditionally held outside.
Easter services are a jubilant time and most services employ special victory songs, including the classic “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today.”
Easter is a feast day, so should also, traditionally, be accompanied by a large meal – ideally one featuring foods you could not partake in while fasting.
The holiday has gradually become secularized, so for many it’s the equivalent of a celebration of spring and good weather. Also, who would pass up a chance to eat candy?
What are some Easter traditions?
Well, there are a lot. People decorate eggs. They make Easter baskets filled with sweets and eggs. They conduct egg hunts and egg rolls. Some people even make cascarones, or confetti eggs.
Why Easter eggs?
Eggs are a symbol of fertility, renewal and new life, so it’s fitting that they are used to celebrate Jesus’s conquering of death and the subsequent new life Christians have through him.
There’s also some religious symbolism there. Some Christians view the egg as a Christian symbol, because just as a bird hatches from the egg leaving behind a shell so Jesus left the empty tomb.
According to the History Channel, decorating eggs for Easter has been going on since the 13th century, when early Christians stained eggs red in honor of Christ’s blood. It all really picked up steam in the 19th century when Czar Alexander III commissioned Peter Carl Faberge to make jewel encrusted eggs as a gift for his wife.
However, it should be noted that eggs as gifts isn’t a Christian thing. Engraved ostrich eggs have been discovered in Africa that are more than 60,000 years old – which predates Christianity by quite a lot.
What about the Easter Bunny?
Like eggs, rabbits are an ancient symbol of fertility and new life. The association with rabbits and Easter happened in Protestant Europe. Many of the Germans who eventually settled in Pennsylvania had a tradition of the “Osterhase,” an egg-laying hare, Cadbury style.
However, it should be noted that the Easter Bunny isn’t the only Easter ambassador. Around the world Easter animals include the cuckoo, fox, chick, rooster and stork.
Why not? This abundance of sweets could be linked to the end of the fasting season of Lent. Seeing as many people give up desserts during this time, it only makes sense for them to geek out about chocolate and sugar when Easter hits. Jellybeans became popular in the 1930s, because merchants said they looked like eggs – which is what we call clever advertising.