Bet You Didn't Know: Easter Traditions
For many people of the Christian faith, Easter is the most important holiday of the year. It is the culmination of the religious season of Lent and the day on which Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. In addition to it’s religious importance, Easter is also a popular secular holiday thanks to it’s association to the Easter Bunny, colorful decorated eggs, and, of course, all that candy. The first recorded celebration of Easter was back in the 2nd century, but it probably goes back even further than that. According to one popular theory, early Christians adopted Easter from a pagan festival celebrating Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and fertility. The goddess consorted with a hare, which, as the theory goes, was the original inspiration for today’s Easter Bunny. But, it appears little evidence exists to support this story. So, where did the Easter Bunny actually come from? Rabbits are an ancient symbol of fertility and new life, two ideas strongly associated with spring and with Easter. The connections between rabbits and Easter arose in Protestant Europe in the 17th century and was probably brought to America a century later by German immigrants. But, we bet you didn’t know that the Easter Bunny isn’t the only animal associated with the holiday. In Switzerland, a Cuckoo delivers the Easter eggs while in different parts of Germany, kids wait for the Easter fox, chick, rooster, or stork. Though eggs also symbolize fertility and renewal, they may have become popular on Easter for a more practical reason. For centuries, the Christian church banned eggs, along with other foods, during Lent and it became a special treat to eat them again at Easter. Decorating eggs is one of the oldest Easter customs. One of history’s most lavish Easter traditions developed in late 19th century Russia when royalty and other members of high society began giving each other jewel encrusted eggs as Easter gifts. The man behind these insanely valuable eggs was the artist jeweler goldsmith Peter Carl Fabergé who was commissioned by Czar Alexander III to create jewel Easter eggs for his wife. For most Americans however, Easter is about the sweet stuff, candy. U.S. candy makers produce some 90 million chocolate bunnies and 16 billion jelly beans for Easter each year. Jelly beans were invented in the 17th century, but they only became an Easter candy in the 1930s after merchants pointed out how much they look like eggs. Today, more candy is sold for Easter than any other holiday except for Halloween and more than 88% of American parents prepare Easter baskets for their kids. From it’s powerful religious significance to it’s popular customs, Easter ranks among our most widely celebrated holidays. This spring, sweeten up your celebration with a little history and some fun Easter facts we bet you didn’t know.