9 Myths and Legends About Easter Traditions
Multicolored eggs. Cute bunny rabbits. Learn the history behind some of this Christian holiday's most popular traditions.
Easter Myth: The Easter Bunny
The Easter bunny is often considered a part of Easter because of the notable ability of bunnies to proliferate. However, there are roots back to the actual name of Easter. A goddess of fertility, Eostre (who may have been one of the inspirations for the name Easter), is said to have been accompanied by a hare, although many sources debate this connection. The tradition of the bunny was brought to the U.S. by German settlers to Pennsylvania. But the bunnies might not have as much to do with Easter as some people believe, here’s how bunnies really became associated with Easter.
Easter Myth: The Name “Easter”
Some Easter traditions connect this name with Ishtar, the Babylonian and Assyrian goddess of love and fertility, or Eostre, an Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring. Doubtless, the Christian holiday was modeled after pagan celebrations of spring and fertility. However, its traditions also closely mimic Passover, and the last supper is believed by some to be a Passover Seder. European names still use this root for what they call Easter; in Spanish it is Pasqua, the French call it Paques, and the Italian name is Pasqua.
Easter Myth: It’s important, but not as important as Christmas
In terms of preparation, marketing, and pop culture, it’s undeniable that Christmas is a way bigger deal than Easter. (While you can probably rattle off five to ten Christmas movie titles, how many Easter movies can you name?) This might lead you to think that Christmas is far and away the most important Christian holiday. But despite Christmas’s overwhelming domination of the holiday market, Easter is actually far more important in terms of its spiritual meaning. While the birth of Christ is obviously very important, it’s his eventual resurrection on Easter Sunday that provides the basis of the Christian faith. If that’s new info to you, check out these other facts you didn’t know about Good Friday.
Easter Tradition: Breads
Hot cross buns and other breads marked with an X to symbolize the cross are a tradition on many Easter tables. Different sweet breads are also used all over the world. Try these: Choreg (Armenia), Paska (Ukraine), Babka (Poland), Tsoureki (Greece). Also, try a traditional Italian Easter Bread (shown above) with eggs baked right in. These are conspicuously risen breads, which may also show a desire for Easter traditions to be different from Passover, which includes unleavened breads.
Easter Tradition: Ham
The tradition of eating ham most likely came from the slaughter of an animal before fall and then preservation in salt over the winter, sometimes buried near the sea. Sixty-seven percent of Americans serve ham at their Easter dinners, and this typically breaks any meat fast that is undertaken during Lent.
Easter Tradition: Eggs
The star of Easter—painted, dyed, gilded in silver and gold, blown empty and hung on trees—is the egg. Legends abound about this symbol of life. Around the world, they are brought to church, given as gifts, hidden for the benefit of children and even rolled on the White House lawn. In fact, eggs a are linked with both Easter and history.
Easter Tradition: When It Falls
Easter is a movable feast, meaning it changes depending on a few things. The council of Nicea 325 determined that it would occur after the full moon following the vernal equinox on the next occurring Sunday, unless this happened to interfere with Passover, in which case it should be the Sunday after that. Got it?! It can occur anytime between March 22 and April 25. Once you mark your calendar, prep for these fun Easter games for kids.
Easter Tradition: Hollow chocolate bunnies
Love them or hate them, hollow chocolate bunnies will most likely end up being a part of your Easter. Containing an underwhelming amount of chocolate compared to their solid counterparts, hollow bunnies may seem like one of the more bizarre Easter traditions. But there is a reason behind their popularity. In 1939, chocolate manufacturers wanted a way to make chocolate bunnies that could be large and decorative while still easy to eat. It’s easy enough to bite into a thin solid chocolate bunny, but bigger chunks of solid chocolate can be tough on your choppers. Making hollow bunnies was also a way for manufacturers to sell larger products at a cheaper price. Enjoy your candy this Easter without guilt by remembering this nutritionist-approved ranking of Easter candies.
Easter Tradition: Baskets
One of the most popular Easter traditions, the Easter basket was originally more of an Easter nest. Like the bunny itself, the gifts he brings come from a German tradition as well. The Easter baskets were inspired by the concepts of fertility and springtime, just like many other Easter traditions. Children would make “nests,” filled with grass, in hopes that Peter Cottontail would fill the nest with eggs. The nests gradually evolved into baskets, which were less messy, easier to carry, and, of course, bigger, like these 15 Easter basket ideas the whole family will love.