Most people associate the springtime holiday of Easter with fluffy bunnies and colorful eggs. Despite my affinity for rabbits and eggs of the cream-filled, milk chocolate, Cadburry variety, the true meaning of Easter goes far beyond its secular trappings and signifies the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. As we approach the Easter holiday, which this year falls on April 24, take a moment to reflect on the history and meaning of the day and the tremendous gift it represents.
For Christians, Easter is the celebration of Jesus rising from the grave three days after his crucifixion on Good Friday. Each year, Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox on March 21, and typically coincides with Jewish Passover, which Jesus and his disciples observed during the last supper. For Catholics, Easter Sunday is preceded by 40 days of Lent and followed by 50 days leading to up to Pentecost, when Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to his disciples. Of all holidays, Easter is most important to Christians because it commemorates Jesus’ giving his life as the perfect sacrifice, by which all who repent of their sins and believe in him will “not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
At some unknown point in history, pagan customs and springtime fertility rituals began to merge with Christian beliefs. The egg, as a symbol of fertility or rebirth, became associated with the Easter holiday, and rabbits have traditionally represented fertility and springtime. The actual “Easter bunny” is most likely an adaptation of the German tradition of the “Oschter Haws” or “Easter Hare,” which laid brightly colored eggs for well-behaved children to find, much like Easter-egg hunts today. Children would use their caps or bonnets as “nests” for the eggs, which carries on in the modern tradition of Easter baskets. Today, egg decorating is a popular Easter activity which often includes dying eggs various colors and using other materials to create designs.
When I was about seven years old, my sister and I awoke one Easter morning, looking forward to hunting for eggs which our parents always hid for us inside the house. We looked out on the front lawn, and saw a large, colorful sign telling us that 25 eggs were hidden in our yard for us to find. Our neighbors down the street whom we didn’t even know decorated the most beautiful eggs for us, and I still remember how happy we were hunting for them in our yard. I hope they know how much we enjoyed that day, and how much we appreciated their kind and thoughtful gesture.
No matter how you celebrate Easter, I hope that you take a moment to reflect on the overwhelming significance of what the day represents. Whether you attend a sunrise service or celebrate quietly at home, remember that through his death and resurrection, Jesus conquered hell and the grave and purchased salvation for any and all who will forsake the world and follow him.
“Easter: History, Meaning and Observances of Easter” religionfacts.com
Jim Zamora “Spring Bunny vs. Easter Rabbit” scrippsnews.com
“LHM Easter 2008” lhmint.org