Brownielocks and The 3 Bears
Present

 


and its

HISTORY, ORIGINS, FOLKLORE,
TRADITIONS, and SYMBOLS


Purple is the traditional color of Easter symbolizing union of love as well as repentance with pain. Purple is also a royal color of kings and nobility. Why? Because in ancient times, purple dye was so expensive, only the wealthy could afford it.  
White is also a color of Easter, representing purity.  
Yellow is a color of Easter and for April which means sunlight and radiance!

How Did Easter Get it's Name?

Easter originated from the Hebrew word "Pesach" which means Passover. However, other historians believe that the name comes from ancient Norsemen's word "Eostur" or "Eastar" or "Ostar" which means "season of the growing sun" and "season of new birth."  While other scholars believe that  the Teutonic goddess of dawn and springtime, whose name is "Eostre" or "Eastre" and whose symbol is the hare, is the source.  She was worshiped by the Anglo-Saxons during pre-Christian times.  No matter which source you feel is the origin for the word Easter, scholars all unite in accepting that Easter definitely refers to the East and the rising sun.

Easter Sunrise Celebrations

First of all, one has to try to imagine living in a world where you have no clue what time of day it is, what day of the week it is and what day of the year it is.  Thus, you have no clocks, watches, calendars or palm pilots!  What to do?

The only thing people relied on was the sun.  But even that made them insecure. During the winter months the days are shorter.  And, people got tense and felt that perhaps the sun might fall behind the horizon and never return in a few hours.  So, when the Spring Equinox came and days got longer, people were a little more happy.  This have them HOPE!  The people who are said to have originated the thankfulness and joy of a longer sun are the Celtics.  Their Druid priests performed spring fire rites, who believed that the Spirit of the Sun sent them live-giving rays over their fields.  But the Christian church banned these spring festivals by the Celts, calling them paganistic.  This is where St. Patrick (yes the one from St. Patrick's Day) is said to have blended the Celtic celebrations with the Christian church by starting a spring celebration called the Easter Bonfire to be a part of the Christian mass.

Firecrackers and Bells on Easter

Easter is celebrated in over 80 countries.   Some of these countries also set off fireworks also.  The belief is that the firecrackers will scare off evil spirits, witches or ghosts that may be close.  Others do it as a symbolic representation of bright, glorifying sun rays that mean hope and triumph over death and darkness in the world.

In some countries, the ringing of church bells on Easter Sunday or every day of Easter week represents the announcement of the new life Spring brings and also to frighten off the spirits of darkness and evil.  Now wouldn't you assume that with all the loud electronics, speakers, etc. in today's world that a simple bell's ring would be pretty quiet?  However, in areas that are not so civilized, they still ring a bell as a celebration noise.

The True Meaning of the Easter Egg

According to religious scholars, the ancient Egyptians, Persians, Phoenicians, Hindus and others believed that the world was one big egg.  Don't laugh!  Then this big "World Egg" broke in two and well, from that everything else came.

Egg is accepted as a symbol of fertility and immortality.  So it is easily seen by it goes with Spring when things sprout back to life. As far as the painting of the eggs, no one is 100% sure how that got started.  But once again, we go back to this belief of keeping evil spirits away and so if you painted the egg it would persuade the evil spirits who brought bad luck to leave you alone.  And, the good helpful spirits would be attracted to the pretty eggs and come to help you.

Coloring and dying eggs can be simple or elaborate.  And of course the most famous jeweled eggs were done by Peter Carl Faberge in St. Petersburg during the the late 19th century and early 20th century.

Egg games are often played at Easter and vary from country to country. In England, on "Egg Saturday" marks the last 4 days before Lent.  Children go house to house asking for eggs or meat and throwing broken crockery at the doors of those who refuse. (Does this sound a bit like Halloween's "Trick or Treat"?)  This custom is known as Lent-Crocking.  Another English game is called Egg Shackling in which a bunch of raw eggs are placed in a sieve and a shook until all but one remains uncracked.  The owner of the last uncracked eggs wins a prize.  Pace-egging is a custom of going door-to-door asking for Easter Eggs.  Egg-cracking, egg-rolling, egg-races and Easter Egg hunts are also popular.  In Greece, an egg is hung suspended on a string, while guests sit around a table and start hitting at it with their heads and then trying to catch it with their mouths. Egg-tapping is where children strike their eggs against one another (sort of like marbles?) to wee which egg survives.  Some say that Egg-rolling is a symbolic game representing the rolling away of the stone at Jesus' grave or tomb. Or others say that a rabbit emerging from his burrow is a symbol of Christ rising from his tomb on Easter morning.  

Where do Easter Eggs come from?   Not chickens!  According to German folklore, the Easter Bunny lays them and hides them in gardens.  The story in France is that the eggs are dropped by the church bells on their way back from Rome.

More information on egg folklore is in our food folklore section.

 

The Easter Basket

As far as the word itself..."basket", it is believed to have originated around the 13th Century in old French and Anglo-Norman times. But, it is unclear which culture actually was the first to call a woven container a basket. 

Our ancestors had a tradition of taking baskets of seedlings to temples as a way of pleasing the gods to give them a good harvest for the year.  The fertility goddess, Eostre, is often depicted carrying a basket of eggs.  The most famous basket is the one that the baby Moses floated in. So, baskets are filled with new life!

But, basketry itself dates back thousands of years,  Since many baskets were made from natural materials, it's hard to date when the first basket was made because it would have decayed.  (Clay pots have a longer survival rate.)  But, the oldest baskets archeologists have found were in Egypt and date back 10,000+ years. 

Baskets come in handy for carrying things because they don't add weight, but are strong. So, they are popular in all cultures.  During the Industrial Revolution, baskets were used for packing and delivering goods.   And, baskets can be big enough to fit a person!  After all, it's a basket that hangs at the bottom of the air balloons! As far as Easter,  it's only logical that you needed something to put your eggs in. And, a basket was the most logical. 

But, how did the idea of a basket get from one area of the world to another?  Two words: Conquests or Explorers.
Groups of people, either by force, came and took the goods of another culture over to their land. Or explorers came and did some trading of goods between cultures.  All this stuff that was traded (or stolen) often times was put into baskets!  And, basket styles varied from culture to culture.  In London, they even had a basket weaving guild as early as 1469.  Baskets to hold stuff was an important part of society!

 It is the Germans that came up with the story of the Easter Bunny that carries a basketful of eggs. Or leaves baskets full of eggs and other goodies on the doorsteps for children.  But, exactly how the German style of a straw Easter basket with a handle got developed is hard to pinpoint.  Years ago, did the Germans add a handle to the basket bowl that they saw goods from other lands come in?  Who knows.   It's easier to carry a basket that has a handle.  Sharing ideas and adding your own to a design even goes on today.

When the German immigrants came to the United States, they continued the tradition of the Easter Bunny with his basket.  They didn't make the Easter bunny carry colored pots.  So, perhaps they used the basket due to it's weight?  Or because it was made of natural materials from the earth?  And, this could be the explanation why also grass is put inside the basket. It's not just to protect the eggs, it's another symbolism for nature and life.

Today Easter baskets can be hand-made or factory made.  But, whatever you choose, the bottom line is that a basket is simply a practical container to put and carry stuff in. And, that's probably why it was used.

 

The Easter Date

I'll try to make this simple because it can be really confusing when discussing all these Julian and Gregorian calendar dates.  

In 1582, Pope Gregory VIII redid the Julian calendar that had been used for years.  Because of this, he changed leap year.  Pope Gregory the 8th calendar soon became known as the Gregorian Calendar, which slowly gained acceptance.   By the 1700's most of Western Europe accepted it.  But, the old, traditional Julian calendar was still being used by the Eastern Christian churches.

It was set up that the vernal equinox would always be on March 21.  Therefore, this meant that Easter can never happen before March 22 or after April 25.  Now, setting these calendars by the church (or Pope) is called the Ecclesial System.  Creating a calendar by the moon is called the Astronomical System.

 First we have the Vernal Equinox.  Then we have the first full moon (whatever day that falls on). After which, we have the first Sunday on the calendar. This is always Easter Sunday.

So here is how Easter will happen in the next few years:

2012-- April 8
2013-- March 31
2014-- April 20
2015 --April 5
2016 --March 27
2017 --April 16
2018 --April 1


  2019 --April 21
  2020 --April 12
2021-- April 4
  2022 --April 17
2023-- April 9
    2024 --March 31


The Easter Bunny, Hare or Rabbit?

First of all, rabbits are not hares.  Hares are rabbits cousin who have shorter ears and longer hind legs.  But as long as it hops, children are not fussy. He is said to have come to the United States via German immigrants who called him "Oschter Haws".  

Why rabbits and not chickens?  Old folklore says that witches had the power to turn themselves into rabbits.  And, with the rabbits well-known reproductive skills, it is a popular Spring fertility symbol.  This is why a rabbit's foot in old folklore magic is believed to have sexual potency and magical powers of financial prosperity.  Sigmund Freud said that feet have sexual symbolism. As such, a rabbit's foot soon grew to become a symbol of good luck.

So how do we get the official "Easter Bunny"?  In German folklore, the goddess Ostara, was always accompanied by a hare.  Ostara was their Spring Festival goddess.  Although there has never been any Christian symbol pertaining to rabbits, the Easter Bunny's role is a popular one for children of any denomination.

In modern times, the eggs are now chocolate and candy.  And Easter Bunnies are chocolate as well as pastry and sugar.  Originally, children made empty nests in the corners of their barns or gardens.  Or they left an empty bonnet or cap for the Easter Bunny to fill with goodies.  It wasn't until later on that leaving an Easter Basket became popular.

Some religious people feel that the Easter Bunny has watered-down the real significance of Easter just like Santa Claus has done to Christmas.

Easter Games: Easter Egg Roll and Hunt

The Easter Egg Roll and The Easter Egg Hunt  are two common games during this holiday season. You can have them anytime and anywhere you want (homes, schools, churches, etc.). The purpose of the Easter Egg roll is to see who can roll their egg the farthest down a hill without breaking it. In this case, the eggs are commonly raw and not hard-boiled, making them easier to break. 

 With the Easter Egg Hunt, those eggs are normally hard-boiled and decorated. They are then hidden around the house and/or yard for children to find on Easter morning.  The child who finds the most eggs gets a special prize, besides what the Easter bunny left in his or her basket.

The most popular Easter Egg Roll celebration is at the White House in Washington, D.C. and began back in 1872 the Monday after Easter.  Rather than explain the tradition here, I'll give the link to the White House Easter Egg Roll History.

There is also a UN-traditional Easter Egg roll held annually at the National Zoo for Black children. This began over a century ago due to segregation and racism. When the White House first began the Easter Egg roll, only white children were allowed to participate.  In order to have a celebration for children that were of African American descent (or any other nationality) the National Zoo Easter Egg Roll was created.

I know that the White House website states that their Easter Egg Roll is moved to the Zoo only during wartime and inclement weather, but; the reality is, that the National Zoo every year hosts an Easter Egg Roll also for African American children.  

The Easter Bonnet

Wearing hats were once in vogue in the US around 1930's.  It was then that getting a new Easter bonnet was popular.  Irving Berlin celebrated this custom with his song "Easter Parade" of 1933.  Because hats are no longer as popular, getting a new Easter outfit is more of the tradition today, or a new pair of shoes.  And, in some areas of the US, the bonnet has been replaced by some household decorative item like a flower wreath for the door and other items.

The Easter Pretzel

The Anglo-Saxons honored their goddess of springtime, Eostre, with eating wheat cakes.  It is believed that out of this ritual evolved hot cross buns made by English monks who were previously baking at the Vatican in Rome pretzels during the 5th century.  These pretzels were given to the poor for 40 days during Lent. To the monks, a pretzel symbolized Lent because the shape of a pretzel looked a lot like a person praying with their arms folded across their chest.

The Easter Lilly

Everything mentioned so far has a common thread of Spring, right? So now we come to the Easter Lilly, a flower that doesn't bloom in the spring.  The Lilly actually is a Japanese flower that came the the US via Bermuda.  Because it comes from a bulb, some believe it is chosen as a symbol of life after death. And it produced these impressive white flowers around the same time the celebration of the resurrection was going on.  But how?  Science and horticulture altered it's natural blooming sequence to coincide with Easter.  But the Lilly originally wasn't a springtime blooming plant.    Others chose it as a symbol because the flower to them represented the angel Gabriel's horn. 

Even though the Lilly is the more common Easter plant, there is another plant too that is associated with Easter time.  And, that is a fern, known as the Resurrection Plant.  This site has great information on it, so I won't be redundant.  Click here  for more information and photos.

The Easter Candy

Easter is the second largest candy-consuming holiday, with Halloween being first.  (Christmas and Valentine's Day are sort of tied for 3rd and 4th spot.)   Lots and lots of chocolate Easter bunnies are produced each year. And, according to most of us, we eat the ears first!  The chocolate rabbit is the oldest, traditional Easter candy going back to the 1800s after Joseph Fry, a chocolatier, changed the traditional chocolate recipe.  He added more cocoa butter to the cocoa powder and sugar, creating the first solid piece of chocolate! 

But, the Easter Bunny is a German tradition which originally was a pastry and covered in chocolate. When the German immigrants came to the US, they brought this tradition with them.  Founded in 1916, the Bortz Chocolate Company of Reading, PA is believed to have been the very first to make chocolate rabbits for the public.  It is believed  that the first chocolate eggs also came out in the early 1900s  and originated in Germany.

Jelly Beans, do not originate from Germany.  They come from Turkey and originate from a candy  called "Turkish Delights."  These were just soft, chewy candies.  It wasn't until around later on, that candy makers decided to give them a little sugar shell or.  This  coating process had been around since the 17th century and originated in France, where they used it to apply candy coatings to fruits and nuts.  Jelly Beans are popular due to their long shelf-life. And, were said to have been given to the troops during the Civil War.  Today they come in a lot of flavors and in some cases can be rather expensive.

 Peeps are the most popular non-chocolate Easter treat.
 (For more information see our special page on Peep History)

And, recently many regular candies are now produced in special sizes or colors for Easter (and Halloween).
 An example is M&Ms, where just for Easter they come in pastel colors. Or Reese's Peanut Butter cups come in the shape of eggs.

 

The Easter Fish

There is a certain genus of catfish called "arius" that is referred to as the "Easter Fish" or "Holy Cross Fish." The reason is because the shape of it's skull and the back show a distinct resemblance to Christ on the cross.  Each side of the fish's body bears a slight figure of a kneeling person.

These catfish are edible and are delicious btw.  They run in large schools during the Lenten season along the shores of South and Central America. Those who are devoutly religious will abstain from eating these catfish before Easter.

In the early 18th century, catfish and waffle suppers were as popular along the Schuylkill River (near Philadelphia, PA) as hot dog roasts are  in today's time.

Easter  Songs

The first Easter song isn't really known.  Lots of churches have special songs for their Easter Sunday services (or mass).
Within the past 35 years, there has also been a lot of contemporary Christian music, many of which could be considered praise songs for Easter.  One of my personal favorites is a 1977 song  "He's Alive" by Don Francisco. 

There are not too many chart toppers  either for Easter, unlike Christmas.  "Easter Parade" by Irving Berlin is about the most well-known and popular.  A few favorite children's Easter songs are "Here Comes Peter Cottontail," "Eggbert The Easter Egg" and "My Chocolate Rabbit."

 Therefore, Easter isn't really a  commercially musical holiday for some reason.  Perhaps it's because people are just too busy eating all their chocolate and have their mouths too full to sing?  :D

 

Source of  some information:
 "Holiday Folklore, Phobias and Fun" by Donald E. Dossey, Ph.D
Outcomes Unlimited Press 1992

 "Holiday Symbols, 2nd Edition"
Sue Ellen Thompson
Omnigraphics, Inc. © 2000

"Encyclopedia of Cookery" © 1948
Wm. H. Wise & Co. Inc.

Navy Oceonography Portal

 

Return to Main Easter or...
Take a peek at the other Easter Pages:

Easter Jokes, Riddles, Poems &
Knock-Knocks 

We've gathered up a bunch of Easter Humor Fun!

Play our
 Easter Trivia Game.
Questions about Bunnies, Eggs and all sort of fun for ages 9 to 99.

Egg Expressions,
Quotes and Sayings

It's amazing how an innocent little egg has crept into our American slang!

Bunny Hop Animation!
Watch our little bear do his version of the Bunny Hop to some very jazzy music!

Easter History, Symbols,
Folklore, and more.

The Bunny Trail
Cartoon and also a Sing Along page with
"Here Comes Peter Cottontail."

 Resurrection
Cookies and
 Scripture Cake Recipe

Spinning The Bunny
Learn where the angora came from for your sweater.
Plus our angora sweater cartoon.

Easter Parade
Sing-Along with music and lyrics + A Cartoon!

The Chocolate Rabbit
Sing-along with Music, Lyrics and  Animations

The FunnyLittle Bunny With The Powder Puff Tail
Sing-along with Music, Lyrics, + Animations and Graphics

A-Tisket, A-Tasket
Sing-along with Music and Lyrics

Eggbert The Easter Egg
Sing-along with Music, Lyrics, + Animations and Graphics

Easter Crossword
Puzzle

Print out and enjoy!

Easter Word Find
Puzzle Fun

 

Easter Bingo!
Play Bingo with holiday words or our Egg Dabbers!

The History of Peeps


Easter Cards
(Watercolor)
 Print out.  Free!

 

Chocolate Trivia Quiz
(Part of our Valentine's Section.)  But, it also applies to Easter.

 

 

 

 Midi title "I Love You Just The Way You Are"

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