A commemoration common to an overwhelming majority of Christian denominations, Easter celebrates the ultimate triumph of Jesus Christ over the power of evil and death. Always falling on between March and April 25, Easter is observed on the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring, a patterned determined by the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. Although the origins of the religious aspects of Easter typically remain unchallenged, the history of the holiday’s non-scriptural facets prove a mystery of tradition.
While the genesis of brightly dyed Easter eggs is difficult to trace, many scholars believe that the tradition of Easter eggs originated in Medieval Europe. One common theory holds that Medieval Christians would hard boil all eggs gathered during Lent to preserve the eggs until the fast was completed. When Lent was fulfilled, Christians would either enjoy these boiled eggs or offer them as an Easter gift of goodwill to those who could not afford to own their own chickens.
Another popular opinion claims that the Easter egg sprang from pagan origins. Anglo-Saxons equated the symbol of the egg with life and rebirth and utilized the egg in rituals celebrating the arrival of spring. Of course, the theme of resurrection was not lost on Christians who easily adapted this form of pagan revelry into a metaphor of worship.
In spite of the complexity of the Easter egg’s inception, the origin of the Easter bunny is relatively undisputed. A tradition ferried over the Atlantic by German immigrants, German folklore describes the existence of an egg-laying rabbit known as the Osterhase. German settlers, primarily in Pennsylvania, encouraged their children to build nests for the Osterhase so that it would leave behind a gift of brilliantly-hued eggs. While it remains indefinite why the hare was chosen as the symbolic bearer of Easter eggs, a prevailing theory points to the Germanic belief that bunnies are born with their eyes already open, a characteristic associated with eternal life.
No matter the tradition or custom, all Easter celebrations point towards Calvary, a symbol of everlasting hope and unfailing love.