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Did You Know? – Easter Traditions

Joann Wolwowicz

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Easter, which celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ, is Christianity’s most important holiday. Technically, it is a movable feast because it does not fall on one particular date each year as most holidays do. Instead, Christian churches in the West celebrate Easter on the first Sunday following the full moon after the vernal equinox on Mar.21. Therefore, Easter is observed anywhere from Mar. 22 to Apr. 25 every year.

Easter is really an entire season of the Christian church year, as opposed to a single-day observance. Lent, the 40 day period leading up to Easter Sunday, is a time of reflection and penance. Lent represents the 40 days that Jesus spent alone in the wilderness before starting his ministry, a time in which Christians believe he survived various temptations by the devil. The day before Lent, known as Fat Tuesday, is a last hurrah of food and fun before the fasting begins. The week preceding Easter is called Holy Week and includes Maundy Thursday, which commemorates Jesus’ last supper with his disciples; Good Friday, which honors the day of his crucifixion; and Holy Saturday, which focuses on the transition between the crucifixion and resurrection. The 50-day period following Easter Sunday is called Eastertide and includes a celebration of Jesus’ ascension into heaven.

In addition to Easter’s religious significance, it also has a commercial side, as evidenced by the mounds of jelly beans and marshmallow chicks that appear in stores each spring. As with Christmas, over the centuries various folk customs and pagan traditions, including Easter eggs, bunnies, baskets and candy, have become a standard part of this holy holiday. You won’t find them in the Bible, but many cherished Easter traditions, from the Easter bunny to decorating and hunting for eggs, have been around for centuries. Where did these prevalent holiday symbols come from?

The Easter bunny has become a prominent symbol of Christianity’s most important holiday. The exact origins of this mythical mammal are unclear, but rabbits, known to be prolific procreators, are an ancient symbol of fertility and new life. According to some sources, the Easter bunny first arrived in America in the 1700’s with German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania and transported their tradition of an egg-laying hare. Their children made nests in which this creature could lay its colored eggs. Eventually, the custom spread across the U.S. and the fabled rabbit’s Easter morning deliveries expanded to include chocolate and other types of candy and gifts, while decorated baskets replaced nests.

Easter is the second best-selling candy holiday in America after Halloween. Among the most popular sweet treats associated with this day are chocolate eggs, which date back to early 19th century Europe. Eggs have long been associated with Easter as a symbol of new life and Jesus’ resurrection. Another egg-shaped candy, the jelly bean, became associated with Easter in the 1930’s. According to the National Confectioners Association, over 16 billion jelly beans are made in the U.S. each year for Easter, enough to fill a giant egg measuring 89 feet high and 60 feet wide. For the past decade, the top-selling non-chocolate Easter candy has been the Marshmallow Peep, a sugary, pastel-colored confection.

I hope everyone had a Happy Easter, for those of you who celebrate it, filled will candy, egg hunts, and family.

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The Student News Source of the University of New Haven
Did You Know? – Easter Traditions