Happy Easter. This year will be quite a bit different as everyone settles in for a quiet time during the COVID-19 pandemic that has pretty much everyone in the world practicing social distancing. The faithful usually attend services on Easter Sunday, but many will not be able to or will do so via the internet or television due to the stay-at-home orders in most states across the nation. Traditions for this holy day can differ depending on where a person lives, but what are some of the most common, and where did they come from?
Dying Easter Eggs
Today, children love to dye and paint hardboiled eggs and then hide them for their friends to try and find. The tradition of decorating eggs dates way back to the time of Jesus Christ. Eggs represent new life or rebirth, which goes well with the spring season when regrowth and new life begin again. To celebrate this, people used to decorate eggs and give them to family and friends as gifts.
Some legends say Mary Magdalene took eggs with her to Jesus’ crucifixion on what we now call Good Friday. His blood supposedly fell onto the eggs, coloring them red. Another version of the legend claims Mary Magdalene took a basket of eggs to the tomb where Jesus had been placed to share with the other women who planned to anoint his body. However, when they removed the stone from the tomb and found it empty, the eggs turned red.
Perhaps the stories combined give us today’s tradition of hiding and seeking the colorful eggs.
The Easter Bunny
The trail of the Easter Bunny is a far hop from its origins. Rabbits are notorious for their ability to mass reproduce, which goes quite well with the new birth spring concept. The pagans celebrated Eostre, a goddess of flowers and springtime, and likely where we get the name “Easter.” In the 1700s, German immigrants brought their version to the United States by introducing an egg-laying bunny which was called “Osterhase.” From there, the traditions morphed into what they are today: a giant bunny hopping around with a basketful of Easter eggs and candy.
The Easter Basket
This tradition is the next step in the German Osterhase story. Children created nests so that the bunny would stop at their homes and lay its colorful eggs for them. Today’s nests are now baskets decorated with fake grass and filled with an assortment of goodies including candy and toys.
Have you ever heard of egg knocking, also known as egg jarping or egg tapping? This is a sport where contestants face each other and tap the pointed ends of their eggs against the other until one “survives” and the other cracks. This tradition began in medieval Europe but is a hot topic in Marksville, Louisiana. Since 1956, families have gathered to battle their eggs on Easter Sunday. Serious competitors even try to give their chickens an advantage to producing stronger eggs by given them special feed.
Which of these traditions will you be practicing this Easter Sunday?