Each year, Easter is celebrated in Christian communities worldwide, recognizing the day that Jesus was resurrected after his crucifixion. Many families celebrate the day differently, depending on their family system, traditions and beliefs.
Easter was not officially celebrated in America until after the Civil War period and was initiated by the Presbyterians. The scars of the war led people back to the Easter season where they found the story of resurrection as a source of healing, inspiration and renewed hope.
In recent times, the Easter holiday seems to be focused on children who are excited about the Easter Bunny, candy and egg hunts. Many adults look forward to the Cadbury chocolate eggs and a Honey Baked Ham for their Easter lunch. But, as Christians, we should reflect on this day as the highest holy day of the year.
Although some believe that Easter has become commercialized, take a moment this Easter and reflect on the many traditions that have come to symbolize this special day and yet have Christian origins.
Many families attend Easter sunrise services in honor of this day. The Easter sunrise service is popular on Easter morning as Christians welcome the rising sun on the morning of Jesus’ resurrection. The Christian version of Easter is normally celebrated after the first full moon after the vernal equinox.
Easter egg hunts and the coloring of eggs have Christian origins as well. The egg was considered a symbol of new life, as a chick hatches from an egg. Many see the egg as a symbol of the resurrection: while being dormant it contains a new life sealed within it.
The Easter egg tradition was thought to have originated as a celebration at the end of Lent. History shows that eggs were forbidden during Lent as well as other traditional fast days. During the strict Lenten fast of 40 days, Christians would not eat eggs, and any eggs that were laid during this time were boiled so that they could be eaten later. Because Easter marks the end of Lent, the consumption of eggs resumed and became popular at Easter meals. This is believed to be the reason why eggs came to be associated with Easter.
Many families gather at their kitchen table during Easter and color hard-boiled eggs. The coloring of eggs is a long-standing tradition that may also have Christian roots. According to a History Channel documentary, the custom of colored eggs came from an encounter by Mary Magdalene with the emperor of Rome.
After Christ’s resurrection, Mary greeted the emperor by saying, “Christ is risen,” in which he replied, “Christ has not risen, no more than that egg is red” (pointing to an egg on his table). After making this statement, it is said the egg immediately turned blood red. An Orthodox tradition related to Easter celebrations is the presenting of colored eggs to friends while giving Easter greetings.
Another traditional symbol of Easter is the Easter lily. The trumpet shape of the Easter lily is considered symbolic of the heralding of Jesus on his triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Biblical scholars also believe that lilies may have grown in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Judas betrayed Jesus.
The most popular cultural symbol of Easter is the Easter bunny. The bunny has its origin in pre-Christian fertility beliefs. The hare and the rabbit were the most fertile animals known and they served as symbols of new life.
Regardless of the origins of some of our society’s secular celebrations of Easter, as Christians, relate the traditions that your family chooses to celebrate during the highest of holy days. Despite the commercialization of Easter, your family can choose to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus with your own special family traditions to honor this day.
So, if you attend an Easter sunrise service, hunt for colored eggs or eat marshmallow bunnies, remember the real reason we are celebrating.