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Traditions

March 9, 2024

The History of Easter

Explaining the Origins of the Holiday to Kids

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Illustration of Easter bunny wearing sunglasses and a bowtie, and surrounded by flowers

Brent Watts and João Lucas Rocha

Easter is a time of year when the weather gets warmer, flowers start to bloom, and bunnies seem to be everywhere! But have you ever wondered why we celebrate Easter with eggs and bunnies? 

In this article, we'll take a fun and fascinating journey through the history of Easter, Easter eggs, and the Easter Bunny, and explain the origins of this holiday to kids. Get ready to hop into the past and discover the roots of one of the most beloved holidays of the year!

What is Easter?

Easter illustration of empty tomb of Jesus Christ, with three crosses on hill symbolizing crucifixion and resurrection.
Easter illustration of empty tomb of Jesus Christ, with three crosses on hill symbolizing crucifixion and resurrection.
iStockPhoto / LumerB

According to the Bible, Easter marks the day when Jesus Christ rose from the dead, three days after his crucifixion on Good Friday. But before Christianity even existed, people celebrated the arrival of spring and the idea of fertility and new beginnings. So, Easter is a combination of two totally different things: Christian resurrection and springtime celebrations!

For young children: Explain that Easter is a holiday that is celebrated by many people around the world. It’s a time when we celebrate new beginnings and the arrival of spring. It’s also a special time for Christians, as it commemorates the resurrection of Jesus, a special person who taught people to love one another and to be kind. Consider using books or activities like coloring to tell the story.

For older children: Delve into the religious significance of Easter and explain the story of Jesus' resurrection. You can explain the significance of Holy Week, which is the week leading up to Easter Sunday. Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday, when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, and it ends with Easter Sunday, when Christians celebrate Jesus' resurrection. It's important to emphasize the message of hope and new beginning that is at the heart of the holiday. 

For non-Christian households, explain the significance of spring fertility celebrations, the Spring Equinox, and how newer religions often incorporated existing pagan festivals into their calendars.

For everyone: Remind kids to be respectful of different beliefs: Remember that not everyone celebrates Easter in the same way, so it’s important to be respectful of different beliefs and traditions.

Product Image

"Seedlings: Easter" Book

$10.99

Tailored for children aged 4 to 7, this book is a gentle introduction to Easter's history, beloved traditions, baby animals, and the significance of eggs in the celebration.

What About the History of Easter Eggs?

Hands holding a basket of easter eggs.
Hands holding a basket of easter eggs.
iStockPhoto / Bogdan Kurylo

Why Easter eggs, you may ask? Eggs have been associated with Easter for centuries. In fact, the tradition of decorating eggs for Easter dates back to at least the 13th century, when eggs were boiled and dyed much as we do now.

According to English Heritage, eating eggs was forbidden in medieval times during Lent (the 40 days before Easter) so on Easter Sunday, tucking into an egg was a special treat, especially for poorer people who couldn’t afford to buy meat. Eggs were given to the church as Good Friday offerings, and villagers often gave eggs as gifts to the lord of the manor at Easter. Even royals got involved: in 1290, Edward I purchased 450 eggs, which were decorated with colors or gold leaf and given out to members of his household.

There were lots of superstitions about eggs at Easter too. Some believed that eggs laid on Good Friday would turn into diamonds, while others thought that eggs with double yolks were a sign of riches to come. Some people even believed that eating eggs on Easter Sunday would prevent sudden death. No wonder folks had their eggs blessed before eating them!

For young children: Explain that boys and girls have been eating and decorating eggs at Easter for a long, long time. Tell them about your experiences with Easter eggs when you were their age.

For older children: Ask them to imagine being a child in a medieval town and having to give up a favorite food for 40 days. What would they pick?

How did Easter Egg Hunts Start?

Children on an Easter egg hunt.
Children on an Easter egg hunt.
iStockPhoto / monkeybusinessimages

The history of Easter egg hunts comes from 16th century Germany, when the Protestant reformer Martin Luther organized egg hunts for his congregation. Germans believed in a special hare named Oschter Haws (or Osterhase) who laid eggs in the grass. Children were encouraged to build little nests for Oschter Haws and search for the eggs it left behind. 

Easter bunny next to basket of easter eggs.
Easter bunny next to basket of easter eggs.
iStockPhoto / panida wijitpanya

Over time, Oschter Haws transformed into the Easter Bunny, who may not lay eggs, but still brings lots of presents. And the tradition of building nests (or baskets these days) and hunting for goodies? That's still going strong!

Conclusion

So there you have it: Easter isn’t just about bunnies and eggs, but also has a rich history full of religious and cultural significance. It's important to help kids understand what Easter is all about and why it's celebrated. But don't worry, talking about Easter doesn't have to be boring or dull! By following our tips and focusing on the happy message of hope and renewal, you can make learning about Easter fun and exciting for everyone in the family. 

So hop to it and get ready to bring the happy to this holiday in a meaningful way!

Looking for easter gifts for the whole family? Check out our online store to find eggs-actly what you’re looking for!

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