Traditions represent a critical piece of our culture. They help form the structure and foundation of our families and our society. They remind us that we are part of a history that defines our past, shapes who we are today, and who we are likely to become. Many Easter traditions developed as a result of church involvement in people’s lives. Following are some ways families traditionally celebrate the Easter Holiday and why.
Good Friday commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death at Calvary. The historical origins of the “Good” in Good Friday remain unclear, though some entomologists believe the term “good” is an archaic form of “holy.” The holiday is also known as Holy Friday, Great Friday and Black Friday. In the United States, 12 states observe Good Friday as a state holiday: Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Texas and Tennessee. In addition, the day before Good Friday is known as Maundy Thursday. The term “Maundy” is derived from the Latin word mandatum or commandment. The term refers to the commandment given by Jesus at the Last Supper: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”
The Easter Egg Hunt
Chocolate bunnies, and Easter egg hunts – the search for brightly colored hard-boiled eggs - are two of our most recognizable Easter traditions. The Easter egg hunt (and reference to bunnies) dates back over thousands of years. The word "Easter" is thought to have come from the Teutonic goddess of springtime Eostre, who was commonly associated with rabbits thanks to their connection with fertility; early Germanic cultures believed that Eostre and her egg-laying rabbits heralded the beginning of spring. Hence the egg, which represented a symbol of life and rebirth, came to represent the resurrection of Jesus Christ in early churches. In Medieval Europe, Christians would abstain from eating eggs and meat during Lent. Eggs laid during that time were often boiled to preserve them and were given as Easter gifts to children and servants. Some traditions claim that the Easter egg is symbolic of the resurrection of Jesus, with the shell of the egg representing the sealed tomb and cracking the shell representing the Resurrection. Christians in the Middle East and in Greece painted eggs bright red to symbolize the blood of Christ. Although its roots aren't totally clear, it's widely believed that egg hunts date back to the 1700s, when the Pennsylvania Dutch believed in an egg-laying hare called Oschter Haws (or Osterhase). Because this precursor to the Easter Bunny laid eggs in the grass, children were encouraged to build nests for it to lay in - and to search for the eggs it left behind. Oschter Haws eventually became the Easter Bunny, who isn't known for its egg-laying capabilities, but the tradition of creating nests - or in the modern day, baskets - and searching for his presents has become an Easter tradition.
Easter isn’t the only holiday where families gather extended members together with friends to celebrate over large spreads of delicious food, but it is one of the most popular holidays to do so. The start of the tradition of “Brunching” isn’t really clear but most historians agree that Sunday brunch was popularized by churchgoers needing to fast for a certain period of time before services, and that a later meal on Sundays became a welcome end to that fast. Eventually, the tradition evolved into a drawn-out elaborate affair for the wealthy that became popular about 120 years ago in Pennsylvania. As the Sunday Brunch became more elaborate (and expensive), it turned into a popular holiday celebration and welcome activity for showing off and entertaining those from out-of-town.
Along with Easter comes a barrage of Easter candy, perhaps none as curious as the pop-culture Peeps. Whether you stick them in your Easter basket or “blow them up” in your microwave, the reason Peeps are associated with Easter, has never been clearly determined. The closest historical explanation attributes the original candy to a Russian immigrant named Sam Born. Mr. Born opened a small candy shop in New York City that sold chocolates and other confections. He eventually relocated his business to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and purchased another candy store known for its tasty jelly beans. However, his family became more fascinated with the three-dimensional marshmallow Easter chicks called Peeps. But it has never been completely understood how they became associated with Easter. Some say the original candy store maker of Peeps thought they looked like little chicks or children praying and decided to sell them as an Easter treat. And as one candy historian noted, “it makes sense that early candy makers thought to place a few chicks among the (Easter) eggs”.
Do you have any “interesting” Easter traditions? Traditions contribute to a sense of comfort and belonging and reinforce values such as freedom, faith, and integrity. Enjoy your Easter traditions and be sure to continue to “pass them along”!