Then & Now: Easter Traditions
Apr 10, 2017 12:27PM
By Linda Ditch
Easter is the most important holiday on the Christian calendar as the celebration of Jesus Christ’s resurrection. Historians believe it gets its name from the pagan Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre, who represented fertility and spring and was honored around the time of the vernal equinox. The Christian Easter was a way to replace the pagan spring celebration.
The traditional practices and symbols of Easter, both religious and secular, include:
- The Easter Bunny: Rabbits have long been a symbol of fertility. The actual Easter Bunny is thought to have been introduced in the US by German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania in the 1700s. They brought with them the tradition of “Osterhase” or “Oschter Haws,” an egg-laying hare. The children would make nests in the garden for the bunny’s colored eggs.
- Eggs: Long a symbol of new life, the egg was once a forbidden food during Lent and one of the first things eaten to break the fast. Decorating eggs was a way to celebrate the end of the Lenten season.
- Sweet Treats: Easter is second only to Halloween in the amount of candy sold in the US.
- Sunrise Services: This religious service represents Mary’s dawn discovery of the empty tomb on Easter morning. The service was first held in the US in 1773 by Moravians in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
- Easter Parades: The tradition of an Easter parade comes from New York City in the mid 1800s, when the wealthy would stroll along Fifth Avenue showing off their new spring outfits after attending Easter church services. The tradition still continues today, except it is open to everyone and the style is more eccentric than refined.
While holding fast to old traditions, adding new holiday activities can create traditions for future generations.
Some ideas to consider include:
- Flying a kite: Actually, this is a long-held tradition in Bermuda, where a nineteenth century missionary explained the ascension of Jesus with a kite decorated with Christ’s image.
- Easter bingo: There are a number of card designs available to download from the Internet. Use jellybeans or small chocolate eggs as card markers, with the game winners receiving a special prize.
- Easter movie marathon—perfect for a rainy spring day. Some suggestions include Easter Parade, Hop, Here Comes Peter Cottontail, It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown, and Winnie the Pooh: Springtime with Roo.
What’s your Easter plan? Share your family traditions in the comments below. You may help others add to their celebrations.