Every April, people the world over bite the ears off of milk chocolate bunnies, throw egg-dyeing parties, and hide plastic, jelly bean-filled eggs in their backyards for their children to find and fight over. And there’s that whole religious component, too (in case you’d forgotten!). But what does it all mean? And why the heck is Easter called Easter?
Well, don’t tell your mom we told you this, but it ain’t all about Jesus. Like most major holidays, Easter’s roots dig deep into the study of the Earth and the changing of the seasons. In the beginning, “Easter” was known simply as a celebration of the arrival of spring, falling on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox.
Recognizing a poetic parallel between the Earth’s annual rebirth — and reemergence of plant and animal life — and the story of Jesus’ resurrection, Christianity chose to combine the two celebrations into one. (That’s why the date of Easter Sunday changes every year!)
But that’s not all. The name “Easter” pre-dates Christianity, too. Around the late 7th to early 8th century, a British monk named Vernale Bede dubbed the dawn after the winter’s darkness Easter after the Germanic goddess Eostre. According to mythology, Eostre reigned as the goddess supreme of, wait for it…fertility! Which may explain why we all obsess over eggs during Easter even though they have absolutely nothing to do with Jesus’ resurrection.
And the Easter Bunny? Be prepared, it’s a liiitle creepy. During the 17th century, the German tradition of the “Easter hare” become a thing. Revered for their sexual prowess and fertility, rabbits have long been a symbol of springtime renewal. Later, the Easter Bunny morphed into a Santa Claus-like figure, keeping naughty children in line by rewarding them with eggs for their good behavior.
Whew! Glad we cleared that up! Now, back to our Cadbury Creme Eggs.