Chocolate bunnies and egg hunts are the earliest Easter memories for most of us in the U.S. The origins of these traditions, however, are complex and surprising.
Long before Christianity came to England, the Anglo-Saxon natives marked the end of winter with a celebration to the goddess of spring and dawn, Ēostre. Although these pagans were eventually converted to Christianity beginning in the late 6th century, the Church did not attempt to change the festival’s name – Easter. Such were the deep roots of the Ēostre celebration in Medieval England.
It’s worth noting that outside the English-speaking world, most Christian cultures refer to the anniversary of Christ’s resurrection by some derivative of Paschal, the Hebrew name for Passover.
So what about the bunny and the eggs? That bit of “yolklore” spread in the 17th century from a German tradition of a mystical hare that brought eggs to good children in the spring. Given their amazing prowess at fertility, hares and rabbits have a long connection to spring rituals.
Mash up all these ancient traditions and what do you get? Kids across the English-speaking world buzzing about with sugar highs on Easter Sunday.
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