Parents who wish to overcome the commercialism of Easter can share the Christian symbolism of this holiday’s customs and icons with their children to emphasize its holy origins, found in the Bible.
Easter is a Christian celebration of the resurrection of Christ three days after his crucifixion on a cross, as detailed in the Christian Bible. According to historians, the modern day Easter has roots in Christian and pagan celebrations which both recognize death and new life (Robinson). Easter is the oldest Christian holiday whose name originated from the pagan word “Estre,” a spring goddess deified by the Anglo-Saxons (“Easter,” 2019). When missionaries converted the Saxons to Christianity, they merged the pagan celebration with their own observance of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection (“Meaning,” 2019). The pagan celebration of renewal, rebirth and fertility shared many themes with Christ’s rising from the dead so the Christian adaptation of the holiday was natural.
Eggs represent fertility, purity and rebirth in folk religion (“Egg,” 1987). Many customs involving eggs preceded Christianity and many cultures have colored eggs prior to the tradition of dying eggs for Easter (“Egg,” 1987). While children typically tint eggs in pastel hues for Easter, Orthodox Greeks dye Easter eggs red to symbolize the blood Christ shed on the cross (“Red-Dyed”). While there is no mention of the Easter egg in the Bible, parents can relate the new life an egg brings to the new life Christ’s resurrection purchased for believers, according to the Bible.
The egg’s shape is also significant. Just as the stone was rolled away from Christ’s tomb on Easter morning according to Biblical accounts, European children traditionally rolled eggs, propelled by spoons, on Easter morning (James). Egg rolling was revived by Dollie Madison in 1814 when she invited children to roll eggs down the hilly grounds of the Capitol building (Collison). The tradition was moved to the White house lawn in 1878 following complaints about trampled grass (James). Children still invade 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue on Easter Monday to roll eggs and participate in a carnival hosted by the President and First Lady.
The Exchange of Easter Goodies
Children everywhere receive baskets filled with goodies and toys on Easter morning. Giving treats on Easter dates back hundreds of years and hot cross buns may have been the first goodies to be exchanged. Father Thomas Rockcliffe began giving hot cross buns to the poor on Good Friday (Moyer). These rolls, frosted with an iconic cross, have both pagan and Christian origins (Moyer). The four sections, marked by the cross, represented the four quarters of the moon to pagans, and Christians later reinterpreted the cross to symbolize the beams on which Christ was crucified (Moyer). Parents can start their own tradition of sharing these delicious baked goods for breakfast on Good Friday, as is the tradition, to remind their children of Christ’s crucifixion.
Cuddly barnyard animals like rabbits and lambs are often associated with the Easter holiday. While rabbits are symbols of fertility and have pagan origins, the lamb represents Christ. “Lamb of God” was one of many names bestowed upon Jesus in the New Testament. Just as the early Jews sacrificed lambs to atone for their impure deeds, Christians believe that Christ’s death on the cross was a sacrifice of forgiveness for the sins of man.
Biblical Events the Basis of Easter Traditions
Events that marked the end of Christ’s life on Earth are symbolized by many Easter customs. Parents who wish to teach their children about the religious significance of Easter can relate the holiday’s seemingly silly traditions to these Biblical accounts.