7 Facts About Easter: Traditions and Origins Unveiled

From the origins of its name to the unique customs observed in different corners of the world, here are seven enlightening facts about Easter that may just surprise you.

Excited mother and daughter in bunny ears covering eyes with painted chicken eggs near tulips and easter bread
Photo by depositphotos.com

1. The Easter Bunny’s Ancient Origins: Far from its current chocolate form, the Easter Bunny traces its lineage to pagan traditions. As Christianity spread, missionaries adeptly blended these local customs into their faith, transforming the pagan Eostre festival into a cornerstone of Christian celebration.

2. Slovakia’s Unique Easter Customs: Easter in Slovakia takes an unconventional turn, where men symbolically whip and douse women with water. This act, meant to ensure health and beauty for the year ahead, culminates in women expressing gratitude by offering drinks.

3. When April Fools’ Day Meets Easter: The rare alignment of April Fools’ Day with Easter Sunday—occurring in 1956, 2018, 2029, and 2040—presents a unique blend of mischief and reverence, injecting an element of light-heartedness into the solemn festivities.

4. The Historical Decisions of Nicaea: In 325 A.D., the First Council of Nicaea played a pivotal role in shaping Christianity, including setting the date for Easter. This council, among other decisions, delved into the divine nature of Jesus, leaving a lasting impact on Christian doctrine.

5. The Judging Easter Bunny: The tradition of the Easter Bunny began among German Lutherans in 1682, where it served as a judge of children’s behavior. Rewarding the good with colored eggs, this figure has since evolved from a strict overseer to a cherished symbol of the holiday.

6. Easter’s Naming After Eostre: The name “Easter” itself is a nod to Eostre, an Anglo-Saxon goddess associated with fertility and the dawn. This connection underscores the holiday’s roots in pagan festivals that celebrated the rejuvenating power of spring.

7. The Tradition of Red Easter Eggs: Originating with Orthodox Christians in Mesopotamia, the practice of dyeing Easter eggs red symbolized Christ’s blood. This tradition, particularly prevalent in Greece, has given rise to the custom of egg tapping, adding a competitive twist to Easter celebrations.

What’s the Story Behind the Easter Bunny and Eggs?

The tale of the Easter Bunny and its association with eggs is steeped in a mixture of tradition and folklore. Beyond the legend of Eostre and her enchanted hare, several theories explain the bunny’s link to Easter and the significant role eggs play in the festivities. In Christian tradition, eggs symbolize the resurrection of Christ, with followers traditionally abstaining from consuming them during Lent to then celebrate their return at Easter, marking the advent of spring.

Historical records from Germany in the late 1500s introduce the Oschter Haws (or Osterhase), a mythical hare that delivers a collection of colorful eggs to the gardens of well-behaved children, sparking the tradition of Easter egg hunts. This custom, which found its way to England by the 16th and 17th centuries, may also draw on older European folk beliefs that linked hares with witches and seasonal disruptions, suggesting that consuming hare meat during Easter could thwart witch-induced troubles.

The Oschter Haws tradition traveled to America with the Pennsylvania Dutch in the 1700s, gradually morphing into the widely recognized Easter bunny that not only brings eggs but also chocolates and toys. While the practice of adorning eggs for Easter dates back to the 13th century, the chocolate bunny has its roots in 18th-century Germany, evolving into Easter pastries by the 19th century.

In Australia, the introduction of real bunnies by European settlers has led to ecological challenges, as these animals are considered pests that harm native species and agriculture. In response, there’s a push to adopt the Easter bilby, a native endangered marsupial, as a more environmentally friendly symbol than the invasive rabbit, offering an interesting twist to the Easter celebration’s symbols.