Origins of Easter Traditions

Origins+of+Easter+Traditions

Elena Keller

When people think of Easter they often think of the eggs, bunnies, and baskets of candy that are synonymous with the holiday. But how did these traditions come to be?

According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, the origin of the name “Easter” itself is deliberated. Some historians say that the name Easter comes from the Latin phrase “in albis,” which means “dawn,” and is translated to “eostarum” in Old High German.

Other historians claim that the name is derived from Eostre, or Eostrae, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring. This coincides with the belief that many of the traditions and symbols of Easter, and Christian holidays in general, have pagan roots.

Regardless of where the name came from, and its potential connections to paganism, Easter is a very important religious holiday among Christians. According to History.com, Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which is the foundation on which the Christian faith is built.

Christians believe that Jesus rose from the dead, three days after being crucified by the Romans under Pontius Pilate. The celebration of Easter brings an end to the “Passion of Christ” which began with a 40 day period of Lent and ends with the Holy Week (Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, etc.).

So where do the bunnies, eggs, and candy come into play? These traditions, like the name Easter itself, are said to have pagan roots, causing some Christians to not celebrate any of the non-religious traditions of Easter.
In pagan traditions, eggs are meant to symbolize fertility and birth. Christians used the idea of eggs granting new life to symbolize Jesus emerging alive from the tomb. However, the use of eggs being decorated for Easter was first recorded in the 13th century.

During this time, religious officials prohibited the eating of eggs during Holy Week. Since chickens continued to lay eggs during this week, some people would decorate the leftover eggs, making sure to specify they were Holy Week eggs.

Many people also participate in Easter egg “hunts,” especially in the United States. The most famous Easter egg tradition in the United States is the annual White House egg roll, where children come to roll eggs down Capitol Hill.

Some households also celebrate the idea of the Easter Bunny, who comes to bring baskets of candy and eggs to children. The origins of the Easter Bunny are said to come from German immigrants in the 1700s who associated the new arrival of baby bunnies in the meadows with birth and renewal.

Several Protestant denominations, such as Lutherans and the Quakers, have opted to not celebrate any Easter traditions, deeming them too pagan.

So while people stay inside their homes this upcoming Sunday to celebrate Easter, they could find time to reflect on the history of their traditions and how this holiday came to be.