For a Christian there is no greater or more meaningful holy day than Easter Sunday. It is the day that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, rose from the dead. It is the day that all of the promises God had made to his people were finally and completely fulfilled.
It is remembered today as a day of rebirth and new life and a time for great joy. Families get together for dinner and sharing time together. Some of the modern Easter traditions may seem far removed from the original, spiritual meaning. A closer look at them may help understand their connection.
Let's start with what is probably the most basic, The Easter Egg. The custom of using Easter eggs has been around for centuries. Eggs are a symbol of fertility, new life and new beginnings.
The bright colors they are painted are to remind us of spring and the hope that comes with this inspiring season. Not surprising different countries have different Easter egg traditions.
For example, in Greece, the eggs are painted crimson red to signify the blood of Christ. In many parts of Germany and Austria green-painted eggs are given on Holy Thursday and the other colors of the rainbow were saved for Easter itself. Slavic people use gold and silver patterns of intricate design and of course everyone is familiar with the delicate and difficult designs and colors used by the Ukrainians and Poles.
Regardless of the colors chosen, or the style in which they are painted, the eggs represent life and a new beginning.
That brings us to The Easter Bunny and even chocolate rabbits! As far back as the 1500's Germans have been using the rabbit or hare as a symbol of Easter. Once again it is a sign of spring. When the air started to warm and the plants started to grow the new baby rabbits would come out from their winter nests and one would know Spring was right around the corner.
In the 1700's the Pennsylvania Dutch reported to be the first in the New World to use the image of the rabbit and most likely carried the tradition from the German ancestors to their new home.
Children were taught that if they were very good the "Oschter Haws" would visit them and bring brightly colored eggs. With the exception of Christmas Eve and the arrival of presents for Christmas, the arrival of "Oschter Haws" was the highlight of the children's year. Children would make lovely grass nests in hidden spots, hoping that "Oschter Haws" would leave colored eggs and maybe a treat inside!
It's not hard to make the connection from the nests made for "Oschter Haws" to today's Easter Baskets! The current use of chicks and jellybeans are obviously just a short "hop" from the original. The chicks are representative of life and hope and the jellybeans are candy-flavored eggs!