Easter is fast approaching. The stores are bursting with brightly colored baskets, synthetic grasses and plastic eggs filled with high-fructose corn syrup, sugar, gelatin and preservatives. It bears a striking resemblance to the Christmas hoopla of only a few months ago. For many homes, Easter has become a second Christmas with egg-decorated trees and presents underneath.
Building family traditions is very important for a healthy, happy family, as I posted earlier here. I am not suggesting that we desecrate the Easter Bunny, only that we take a moment to consider the origins of certain customs and make a conscious decision whether to assimilate these into our lives rather than merely allowing Wal-Mart to dictate our holidays.
Why You Celebrate Easter
Easter is the Christian celebration of the resurrection of Christ. It occurs at the same time as the Jewish festival of the Passover. The word, “easter”, however, does not occur anywhere in the Bible. It may come from the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring “Eostre”. In non-English speaking cultures, the word for “Easter” comes from “pasch”, for the Passover.
The rabbit is also from the Anglo-Saxon pagan customs. The rabbit has always been seen as a symbol of new life and fertility. We still unkindly say of couples who have a lot of children that they “breed like rabbits”. According to legend, the goddess Eostre became angry with her consort, the rabbit, and threw him into the heavens where he became the constellation Lepus the Hare, at the foot of Orion. Interestingly enough, the word “east” and “estrus” also come from the word eostre. The goddess granted Lepus the gift of laying eggs once a year, which is why we have a rabbit delivering eggs.
Easter Eggs are Pagan in Origin
Easter eggs are also pagan in origin. Many ancient cultures worshiped the sun, as it warmed the earth and was the source of life. Birds were often honored as only they could go near the sun god, so eggs were believed to have special powers. In the long, dreary days of winter in the Ukraine, eggs were intricately decorated, then given to family members and respected outsiders as a symbol of new life – which is why the egg must remain whole. The Early Christian Church incorporated the egg into their tradition, not as a symbol of nature’s rebirth, but of man’s.
Giving chocolate rabbits is a fairly new, and consumerist tradition. Jelly beans are also only loosely related to Easter, as they have no new life within and cannot symbolize anything other than the sugar high our children get from consuming them. That said, we did celebrate Easter with hunting for eggs in my home!
Community Easter Egg Hunts
One year I decided to take my youngest child to the community Easter Egg hunt. She was maybe three years old, and not overly addicted to sugar. (She used to hold the sucker part and chew on the stick!). We arrived at the site on a sunny Saturday morning in April all of thirty seconds late, and the hunt was over! The community grossly underestimated the number of children who would show up. There were plastic eggs discarded everywhere, with empty paper candy wrappers blowing in the wind, and the crowd was already dispersing.
My youngster cried big, silent tears, feeling she had missed out on something, and my older children were outraged. A kind city volunteer scooped up some empty eggs and gave them to me. She said I could take them and refill them myself. I thanked her, ran to Wal-Mart, and a new family tradition was born.
Now every Easter I fill plastic eggs with jelly beans and chocolate to hide around our house or yard – inside if there is still snow on the ground (we live up north!) or outside if the weather cooperates. It is my husband’s job to hide the eggs while I prepare a large Sunday brunch – a weekly tradition in our house, but the Christmas and Easter brunch menus are much fancier. We have Sausage muffins, hard-boiled Easter eggs, a fruit bowl with melon and whatever is available, champagne (my kids are older, but the grandbaby gets juice), and of course, chocolate! We would have gone to church first, so by brunch time we have quite an appetite.
We never talked about an Easter bunny. My kids never really believed in Santa Claus, either. We don’t celebrate Halloween at all, nor do we send Valentines. I wasn’t lazy, I just didn’t feel that these were important elements for our family traditions. But my kids love Easter Sunday, and even as young adults, they still want to look for their eggs.