Since Easter commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ, it is arguably the holiest of days in all of Christianity — symbolizing what many Christians believe will happen to them after death — namely, resurrection in spirit and eternal life with “Our Father who art in Heaven.”
Because of its importance in Christian beliefs, there is symbolism surrounding Easter just about everywhere you look.
For starters, for many Orthodox Christians around the world, the tradition of the Easter egg isn’t just about hundreds of kids rolling them on the White House lawn, or hunting for them in the yard every year.
In his 2012 article published in The Huffington Post entitled “Easter Eggs: History, Origin, Symbolism And Traditions,” Jahnabi Barooah wrote, “For Christians, the Easter egg is symbolic of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Painting Easter eggs is an especially beloved tradition in the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches where the eggs are dyed red to represent the blood of Jesus Christ that was shed on the cross.”
Barooah continues, “Easter eggs are blessed by the priest at the end of the Paschal vigil and distributed to the congregants. The hard shell of the egg represents the sealed Tomb of Christ, and cracking the shell represents Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.”
With that in mind, we did some further digging regarding the celebration of Easter both on the religious and secular sides. Our sources are listed at the end of this article, but here are the highlights of some fascinating stuff we found out about Easter:
• Easter happens on the first Sunday following the full moon after the vernal equinox, and because of that, the date moves around, meaning it can occur anytime between March 22 and April 25.
• Dictionary.com says that vernal equinox is: “The time when the sun crosses the plane of the earth's equator, making night and day of approximately equal length all over the earth and occurring about March 21…” That’s the spring equinox — there’s also an autumnal equinox in September, but no Easter then, of course.
• Easter is observed by approximately 80 percent of Americans — though for many of those people, it’s not necessarily a religious holiday.
• However, it is for most — with approximately 60 to 65 percent of Americans going to church on Easter Sunday
• The first recorded observance of Easter occurred in the second century
• Roughly 180 million eggs are dyed and decorated in America each Easter
• The first-known record of people dying and painting Easter eggs is from the 13th century
• For many centuries, the Catholic Church made eating eggs during Lent off limits, so the freedom to eat them on Easter made them a major treat
• In the United States, roughly 43 million Easter greeting cards are purchased each year
• The Cadbury Creme Egg was introduced in 1971 and more than 500 million are produced each year
• When it comes to eating a chocolate Easter bunny, 78 percent people eat the ears first, four percent eat the tail first, five percent eat the feet first, and 15 percent just bite in anywhere and chomp until the bunny is no more
Finally, our readers may be wondering, “Yeah, okay, that’s how people eat one — but what about the origins of the Easter Bunny?”
That proved to be harder to nail down than you might expect.
According to Time.com, “The exact origins of the Easter bunny are clouded in mystery. One theory is that the symbol of the rabbit stems from pagan tradition — specifically the festival of Eostre — a goddess of fertility whose animal symbol was a bunny. Rabbits, known for their energetic breeding, have traditionally symbolized fertility.”
If you’ve ever raised rabbits as this writer did as an FFA kid, you know that last sentence to be almost unbelievably true.
Think we’re kidding about fertility? Well get this: The gestation period for bunny rabbits is just 31 days and they can have litters as large as 14. But that’s just the beginning.
To further illustrate, in an article published at www.bio.miami.edu in 2006, Dana Krempels, Ph.D. says that if all the rabbits from a single female rabbit survive — averaging just six per litter — and they all reproduce, that mama and her babies “will have produced 184,597,433,860 rabbits in seven years.”
Now that’s a serious fertility symbol!
Happy Easter everybody!
Sources for this article: History.com, Gallup, Jelly Belly, PAAS, Guinness Book of World Records, Time.com, Dictionary.com, Whitehouse.gov, Cadbury, the National Confectioners Associations, NPR, the Pew Forum, www.bio.miami.edu, The Huffington Post.