Easter Origins

Posted by on March 25, 2009

(c) levranii/Fotolia

What do hares, Jesus and Moses have in common? They are each the focus of festivals and holidays celebrated in Spring, highlighting rebirth and renewal.

Like Halloween and Christmas, aspects of the Easter holiday have their roots the pagan festivals surrounding the vernal equinox. Likewise, the Jewish holiday of Passover, which commemorates the Exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt, is tied to the date of the vernal equinox. The name “Easter” likely derives from the Teutonic (ancient German) goddess Eastre, who represented spring and fertility. She was often depicted with a hare, since rabbits and hares are known for their fertility; they have come to symbolize new life and rebirth.

Today’s Easter Bunny also originated in Germany, where the people believed a bunny would visit their homes on Easter Eve and bring brightly colored eggs to good children. German immigrants brought the tradition to America in the 18th century. Children would build nests made of leaves and sticks in their gardens for the Easter Bunny to fill with the eggs; over time, this morphed into baskets filled with not only eggs, but egg-shaped candies, chocolate bunnies, jelly beans and other small gifts.