Easter: History, Date and Traditions Explained

From the history of Easter to the ins and outs of Easter traditions and foods, explore Gopuff’s ultimate guide to tidbits every-bunny should know

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Flowers are blooming, winter clothes are being tucked away and egg-shaped candy and bunny decor are hopping into views everywhere. Spring is among us, which, on top of better weather, brings along the Easter season.

From Easter egg hunts and Easter crafts for the kids to family dinners and lots of candy for everyone, this Christian holiday is full of traditions and has a rich history. 

So what’s the story with Easter? How’d it get started, and why do we celebrate? Let’s take a look at the meaning behind the holiday and its history, and explore the symbolism behind some of our favorite Easter traditions.

What is Easter?

Easter is a Christian holiday that celebrates the belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ into heaven. This spring holiday is a great time to celebrate the arrival of spring. After getting through winter, Easter offers a time for people to celebrate longer days, better weather and the blooming of flowers. 

The word “Easter” doesn’t have a clear meaning behind it, but there are a few theories behind its origin. The first theory ties back to the writings of a British monk named Venerable Bede, who lived in the late seventh and early eighth centuries. He claims that the holiday is named after Eostre, a goddess who represents spring and fertility who was celebrated during the Spring Equinox. Symbols of eggs and bunnies (both carrying meanings related to fertility) would make sense, then!

Another theory is that the word “Easter” comes from an old German word for “east,” which originated from a Latin word meaning “dawn.” And, as we know, spring marks a time where days last longer than nights and begin in the east. Although both theories are interesting, neither has been proven correct or incorrect.

When Is Easter and How Is the Date Chosen?

Easter 2021 falls on Sunday, April 4, but that isn’t a fixed date. So how is the date chosen? While you may feel like it just gets pulled out of a hat, it actually is based on the moon. Christians follow the Gregorian calendar—unlike the Orthodox, who follow the Julian calendar—so Easter always falls on the Sunday after the first full moon to take place on or after the Spring Equinox. 

But, interestingly enough, the church actually has determined the March equinox to always take place on March 21, regardless of when the astronomical equinox occurs. This helps solve confusion when the astronomical Spring Equinox and a full moon occur at the same time. 

Easter Traditions

Easter has been celebrated for centuries by Christians all over the world. But today, this holiday is celebrated by many, regardless of religion. Easter celebrations are known for their family gatherings and grand meals, Easter arts and crafts for kids, Easter eggs, delicious candies and of course, the Easter Bunny.

The History of the Easter Bunny

What Santa is to Christmas, the Easter Bunny is to Easter. Heck, they both even get carrots left out for them, too. 

On Easter Sunday, the happy bunny hops around delivering decorated eggs, candies and gift baskets to well-behaved children all over. But how did this cuddly creature become the symbol of Easter? It’s unclear exactly when or how the Easter Bunny came about, but one idea is that it came to America in the 1700s with German immigrants. The tradition in Germany goes that children would build nests for the egg-bearing hare to lay its eggs. Over time, those nests have been replaced by colorful Easter baskets and filled with chocolate, candies and gifts. 

Another theory ties back to one of the origin stories of the word “Easter” stemming from the goddess Eostre. The symbol of Eostre, the goddess of fertility and spring, is often depicted as a rabbit—a creature known for its high reproductive rate. So, some people believe this may have been where the Easter Bunny originated.

But why does a floppy-eared mammal hop around delivering eggs? Well, it’s because eggs are another symbol of fertility, rebirth and life, all of which are celebrated during the Easter season.

Easter Egg Hunts and Their Symbolism

Easter egg hunts have become a main event on Easter Sunday for many households. Children and even adults join in on the search to find candy eggs or plastic eggs filled with goodies scattered around an area. But how did this become an Easter tradition?

The custom, like the theories behind Easter’s name and other traditions, is believed to have come from Germany during the late 16th century. Martin Luther, a Protestant reformer, used to organize hunts for women and children of his congregation. This is symbolic of the story of women discovering Jesus’ resurrection.

But eggs weren’t just a symbol of this resurrection. Back then, eggs were also known as a food that wasn’t allowed to be eaten during Lent, the season of fasting leading up to the Easter Season in the church. So on Easter Sunday, when fasts could be broken, eggs would be enjoyed by Christian families along with other foods.

Traditional Easter Foods

Another big part of Easter celebrations is meals. Families gather and bond over Easter brunch or spend their day looking forward to big Easter dinners while sharing refreshing spring cocktails. While delicious food is a great way to bond, a lot of these traditional Easter eats have a lot of meaning to them. While we have covered the significance of eggs to the Easter season, let’s look at some of the other popular foods we find on our Easter tables.

For example, lamb is often linked to Easter because, in the Bible, Jesus is referred to as the sacrificial Lamb of God. It also dates back to the Jewish tradition of Passover, where stories from the Old Testament say Jews displayed the blood of a lamb over their doors so that the Angel of Death would pass over their homes and spare the families.

Easter hams are no stranger to our holiday tables. Ham made its way onto Easter tables because it was much more affordable than lamb, and it was easier for farmers to cure the pork throughout the winter. By the time spring blossomed, the ham was ready to be featured in Easter feasts.

Easter bread and other Easter cakes have also become common Easter recipes that find their way into our stomachs each spring. In the U.K., early Christians replaced the cakes that were baked in honor of Eostre, the goddess of spring, with hot cross buns or Easter Cakes, which featured crosses on the top symbolic of Jesus’ crucifixion. Other European countries have added their own spin to Easter Bread recipes to add to their own country’s customs.

Conclusion

Easter is a spring holiday that is rooted in so many deep traditions dating back centuries. From sharing chocolate-covered treats in the shapes of bunnies and eggs with family and friends to scouring fields or yards for delicious Easter treats, the day is full of laughter and fun for those who celebrate.

It’s a time to celebrate the new spring season and enjoy all of the timeless traditions we’ve grown to love while starting new ones with the people around us. Let Gopuff keep traditions alive and help you start new ones with easy ordering on Easter brunch needs, or last-minute Easter candies to share with guests. We’ve got you covered this year on everything Easter!

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