Growing up, Easter has been and still is one of my favorite holidays. Easter is a glowing day celebrating new life. Jesus being resurrected from the dead and promising salvation to anyone that believes in it. It is new pastel dresses for the special 7 a.m. service at my Russian Baptist church. It is a large choir exalting through beautiful compositions. It is also guests coming over for a combined Easter egg hunt in the green woods next to our house. My twin sister and I searching for the candy-filled eggs we helped our older sister fill earlier in the day. Painting and dying eggs with my dad and laughing as we compete with whose egg will crack last. It’s the pink and white tulips on our table with Easter dinner. It’s baking Russian Easter breads, drizzling icing on them, and afterward eating all the spilled sprinkles off the trays. It is pure sunshine and praise to the one creator of the universe. It is celebrating the great love Jesus had for us that He died on the cross but then miraculously rose again. Or, that’s what Easter is for me.
Objectively, Easter is a religious holiday holding the crux of Christianity in its meaning but has mixed with the pagan roots of spring celebrations. A holiday that can be more fun because of the competing consumerism, selling candy and poofy peeps. The story of an Easter bunny that leaves behind eggs is cute and interesting. Yet, last year I was curious and searched up if there are at least some connections to Jesus and the Easter bunny.
There’s nothing at all. It is pagan through and through. NBC News’ Lauren Effron explains the origins as coming from pre-Christian Germany. During the 13th century, they worshiped several gods and goddesses. The Teutonic deity Eostra represents spring and fertility, with the rabbit being her symbol due to the connotations of rabbits and reproduction rates. To celebrate her, there were feasts on the Vernal Equinox.
Easter eggs are also symbols of fertility, along with little chicks. In recent American culture, rabbits have a more innocent connotation due to the movies and children’s books about the longhaired and cotton-tailed character. This American tradition originated in the 1700s when German immigrants in Pennsylvania brought over their tradition “of an egg-laying hare called “Osterhase” (History.com). The Easter Bunny is now as much a part of American children’s childhoods as Santa Claus.
The absence of Jesus in this lore doesn’t mean Christians can’t celebrate Easter with Easter bunnies and Easter egg hunts. In being well-informed, we can make sure we acknowledge the origins and cultivate the true meaning of Easter.
If you never celebrated Easter in your household, maybe those playful but pagan traditions could be a reason you look further into the holiday. Easter isn’t just for religious people. There’s a reason we celebrate the new life through Jesus during springtime, and that’s because spring presents nature as a close-up example of that process.
Everything was dead, and from those bare branches and cold ground sprung vibrant grass and flowers. It is to show that this can happen in people’s lives too. Maybe yours as well!