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Holiday Heritage

Bunny, eggs have old connection to spring

April 4, 2010
By RODNEY MINOR, The Leader-Herald

Easter is a time for Christians to celebrate and remember Jesus' resurrection. For people of all religions, it is a time to wonder what the Easter Bunny and Easter eggs have to do with that.

The resurrection of Jesus is part of the Christian faith's foundation, and arguably its cornerstone. Christians believe the resurrection established Jesus as the son of God. They also believe that Jesus offered a path to eternal salvation.

According to "The Everything World Religion's Book," after Jesus was crucified, one of his followers received permission to bury him. The follower laid Jesus' body in a cave and covered the opening with a heavy stone. This happened on a Friday, the day before the sabbath.

Article Photos

The Leader-Herald/Bill?Trojan

Jim Armstrong of Gloversville decorates a tree with colorful Easter decorations at the Senior Citizens Service Center of Gloversville & Fulton County on Tuesday.

"On the day after the sabbath, women followers of Jesus went to prepare his body," the book said. "They discovered that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance to the cave. An angel then appeared and told them Jesus was alive, that he had risen from the dead."

The Rev. Bonnie Orth of Mayfield Presbyterian Church said Easter is the most important holiday of the Christian year.

"Many think of Christmas, but really [Easter] is the most important, in my opinion," she said.

The Rev. Linda Martin of the First Presbyterian Church of Broadalbin said Easter serves as a reminder to Christians that life eternally is a gift from God.

Egg-stravaganza

So how did the Easter Bunny and Easter eggs get involved on the holy holiday?

Both Orth and Martin said the egg can be seen as a symbol of new life. Martin also said the empty egg can be seen as a stand-in for the empty tomb of Jesus.

According to the Lutheran Hour Ministries Web site - www.lhmint.org - people have used eggs to symbolize rebirth and abundant life for years.

"Christians were forbidden to eat eggs during Lent," the Web site said. "They were brought out in splendor on Easter Sunday. They had, in the early centuries of Christianity, been associated with the resurrection of Jesus Christ."

According to the Web site for the TV station The History Channel - www.history.com - the Easter egg likely is linked to pagan traditions. The egg was associated with pagan festivals celebrating spring.

"From a Christian perspective, Easter eggs are said to represent Jesus' emergence from the tomb and resurrection," the Web site said.

According to the Web site, decorating eggs for Easter dates back to at least the 13th century. An explanation for the custom is because eggs were forbidden food during Lent, people would paint and decorate them to mark the end of the period then eat them on Easter as a form of celebration.

At The Hop

Orth said the Easter Bunny has its origins in pre-Christian fertility lore. The hare or rabbit long served as a symbol of fertility, and served as a symbol of new life in the spring.

According to The History Channel Web site, some sources claim the Easter Bunny first arrived in America in the 1700s with German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania. Their children even made nests in which the creature could lay its colored eggs.

According to the Lutheran Hour Ministries Web site, the Easter Bunny does seem to have its origin in Germany. It was first mentioned in German writing in the 1500s, the Web site said.

Also, the first edible Easter Bunnies were made in Germany in the 1800s.

The Meaning

Orth said sometimes people can get caught up in the commercialization of the holiday.

However, she said, folklore is important. It's part of a tradition that gets passed down from one generation to the next. She noted the Bible was originally passed along as an oral tradition before it was written down.

"I do think Easter and Christmas get extremely commercialized though," she said, which can distract people from the importance of the holiday.

Martin said if the commercial aspects of the holiday are the main focus, it certainly can take away from what Christians are supposed to be celebrating.

However, if people focus on the resurrection of Jesus, then bunnies, eggs and all the other stuff are merely a joyful reminder of an important event.

 
 

 

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