The History of Easter

Which came first, the bunny or the egg?

Millions of kids around the world wake up at dawn on Easter morning, excited to find the tasty treats and colorful Easter eggs left for them by the Easter bunny. Despite the pleas of tired parents, the anticipation is just too great to stay in bed. Some kids get to dig right in and enjoy the celebration of springtime and renewal, in the way secular history has celebrated for centuries; for others, the bright, candy-infused baskets may have to wait until they return from Easter services - one of the lengthiest, most crowded Christian church services of the year.

Christian origins

Easter is the most important celebration recognized by the Christian church - the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

By the time he was a young man, Jesus had established a group of followers who believed in his relationship with God and his true purpose on Earth. This following attracted the attention of political rulers who were threatened by his leadership and by the idea that he would replace established gods. These leaders called for his humiliation and destruction; an effort which culminated in the crucifixion of the young leader in his 33rd year. It is believed that he was crucified on the Jewish feast of the Passover, and rose again three days later on what is now observed as Easter Sunday.

Christians believe that between the time of his death and his resurrection, Jesus unlocked the gates of heaven and opened to them the possibility of resting eternally with God. In this way, Jesus is the Son of God who was sent to Earth to redeem the world from sinful behavior.

The pagan influence

A look into the etymology of the word Easter (and East) actually reveals that it was developed from “Eastre,” the name of the Teutonic goddess of spring and dawn.

The full moon of the Vernal Equinox represented the “pregnant” phase of Eastre, before she moved into the fruitful season when she gave birth to the Sun’s offspring. So it was fitting that festivals for Eastre were celebrated during the days following the Vernal Equinox. Also fitting is the fact that the Vernal Equinox still determines modern-day Easter.

The two symbols most often associated with Eastre are the hare and the egg because of their obvious connection to fertility, and the idea of new growth associated with spring and dawn. Legend has it that Eastre would entertain children by turning her favorite bird into a hare that would lay a nest filled with colorful eggs.

While the hare has undergone a mini makeover in its transformation to the Easter Bunny, the egg symbol remains as pure as ever in our modern customs.