The association of Easter with eggs is so ancient that no one knows its origin. It is a symbol of new life, so it has always been a good way to teach the next generation of children about the Christian hope that because of the resurrection of Jesus there will be new life, even after death.
The oldest traditions involve painting eggs. Christians of the Eastern Orthodox Churches still practice this today, often favouring red because it is the colour of life-blood. Christians who fasted during Lent, the weeks leading up to Easter, did not eat eggs during that time, so there were plenty spare.
Sweet eggs were first eaten in Germany in the 19th century. Originally they were made from pastry and sugar, but chocolate eggs are now a huge international business.
In many parts of the English-speaking world chocolate eggs are hidden in homes and gardens for children to find. Legends that have grown around this involve an Easter bunny (actually a hare) leaving them secretly. Hares are symbolically associated with prolific life (particularly noticeable in their mating habits at Easter time). This tradition travelled from Germany to North America with migrants in the 18th century. Often children make and decorate nests, leaving them in the hope of finding chocolate eggs, or decorate hats (Easter bonnets) before setting out to find them.
In mountainous northern parts of the UK Easter is marked by rolling and chasing eggs down steep hills. In North America, egg tapping is a game that involves knocking the ends of eggs together, attempting to crack your opponent’s without damaging your own. Egg rolling races are also a US tradition, including a party at the White House that first took place in 1878.
Bermuda has a colourful tradition of kite flying on Easter Day. The kites rise joyfully to match the joy of knowing that Jesus rose from the dead. In the Netherlands, church bells ring out after being silent for several subdued days, and fires are lit at sunset.
Special foods associated with Easter include hot cross buns. These are spiced buns containing dried fruit, decorated with a cross on the top. They are traditionally eaten on Good Friday. Simnel cake is a rich fruit cake topped with eleven marzipan balls representing the eleven disciples of Jesus who stayed faithful to him. It is eaten on Easter Sunday.
What the Bible says about it
An extract from the Bible:
If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile.
Where to find it:
1 Corinthians 15:17
About these words:
Written about twenty years after the events, Paul’s words in a letter to a church in Corinth show how important the resurrection of Jesus was in the years following his life.
And they said...
Augustine, bishop of Hippo in North Africa, 354-430:
[Jesus] departed from our sight so that we might return to our heart and there find him. For he departed and, behold, he is here.
John Paul II, 264th pope, 1920-2005 (quoting Augustine, a bishop in the 4th century):
Do not abandon yourselves to despair, for we are an Easter people and alleluia is our song.
Elmer Fudd to Bugs Bunny:
I’m waiting for the Easter Wabbit. When he comes in looking so fwuffy and cute with his little basket of Easter eggs ... BANG! ... Easter Wabbit stew!