Easter traditions evolved from past

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

This Sunday is Easter.

It’s time to dress to the nines, go to church and then head to grandma’s house for dinner and Easter egg hunting.

The holiday is by far seen as a Christian one, commemorating the resurrection of Jesus. But along with the cross, other symbols and traditions are attached: Easter eggs, candy and chocolate, the Easter bunny.

So Easter is multifaceted, with many traditions included in one day. How did that happen? How did we get from Christ rising from the dead to hunting colored hard-boiled eggs. Well, the different traditions we have for the holiday have evolved.

Easter is a festival celebration in the Christian church that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ on the third day after his crucifixion.

According to the Encyclopedia Brittanica, the earliest observance of Easter ever recorded was in the second century, though commemorations of Jesus’ resurrection likely occurred earlier than that.

Easter follows lent, the 40-day period before Easter, not counting Sundays; it is traditionally observed by fasting and acts of penance. The week before Easter is called Holy Week and includes Maundy Thursday, the commemoration of the last supper of Jesus and his disciples, Good Friday, which is the day of his crucifixion, and Holy Saturday, which is the transition between his crucifixion and his resurrection.

Many Easter traditions have developed over time, traditions that are now synonymous with the holiday but have very little to do with the Christian observance.

The use of painted and decorated Easter eggs was first recorded as happening in the 13th century, according to the Encyclopedia Brittanica. The church prohibited the eating of eggs during Holy Week, but chickens continued to lay eggs during that week. The notion of specially identifying those as “Holy Week” eggs brought about their decoration. People would paint and decorate eggs to mark the end of the penance period and eat them on Easter as a celebration. The egg itself became a symbol of the resurrection, as it was viewed as a symbol of new life.

The association of a bunny with Easter came about in Protestant areas in Europe. The Easter rabbit is said to lay eggs as well as decorate and hide them. In the U.S., the Easter rabbit also leaves children baskets with toys and candies on Easter morning.

In some European countries, other animals brought Easter eggs, like the fox in Westphalia and the cuckoo in Switzerland.

German immigrants brought the Eastern bunny to the United States in the 1700s, according to history.com; children made nests in which the bunny would lay its colored eggs. The custom spread across the country, and the Easter bunny’s deliveries expanded to candy, chocolate and other gifts. Eventually, decorated baskets replaced the nests.

According to the National Confectioners Association, candy- and chocolate-shaped eggs and bunnies rose to prominence in the 18th and 19th centuries, though the egg-shaped jelly bean is typically thought to have originated from a Biblical-era concoction called a turkish delight.

More than 16 billion jelly beans are made in the U.S. each year for Easter, according to the association. But for the past decade, the top-selling non-chocolate Easter candy has been the marshmallow Peep, a treat that has been evolving recently. (Who has heard about Peep-flavored Pepsi? It’s a thing.)

Easter is the second best-selling candy holiday in America (the first is Halloween). The confectioners association shared statistics it gathered about Easter candy:

• 87% of people who celebrate Easter will share a gift of chocolate and candy to celebrate the holiday.

• 78% of people eat the ears on chocolate bunnies first; 11% choose to eat the feet or tail first.

• Top jelly bean flavors are strawberry (30%), cherry (29%), lemon (11%), grape (11%), licorice – 10%), some other flavor (9%).

• National Jelly Bean Day is April 22. (Everything has its day.)




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