Easter. We never seem to know if it's in March or April (it's April 24th, by the way), we allow a fully clothed rabbit to lay psychedelic-looking eggs in our yards and in our Easter baskets. Easter Sunday wasn't always like this. Like all great holidays, the modern celebration of Easter is has been filtered through numerous cultures, religions, and marketing teams over many, many centuries. But really, what happened? Easter is a time of celebration, whether recognized in a secular or religious manner, but when, exactly, did the magic rabbit come into play? And Easter gift baskets? And chocolate eggs? This is the story of the modern celebration of Easter...
Mad Like a March Hare
The Roman Catholic Church was expanding and finding ways to assimilate their celebrations and customs with those new to their religion. The spring equinox festival (rabbits and all) fell in March, around the same time as the Catholics were celebrating the resurrection of Jesus, so the Church made a few compromises. The holiday would be named after the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre, but it would fall on the first Sunday following the new moon (between March 22nd and April 25th) to coincide with the anniversary of Jesus' resurrection. Eventually, people realized Eostre was wicked hard to spell and the name was simplified to the similar sounding "Easter" that we have today.
With the original pagan name lost, you'd think that the rest of the pagan traditions, like hares and dying eggs with colorful flowers, would disappear as well. Not the case. The Germanic people that began the Easter bunny refused to let go of the bunny, so more compromises were made. The church played it cool, and the eggs came to symbolize rebirth and Christ's resurrection. Today, in Greece and parts of Russia, Easter eggs are dyed exclusively red to represent the blood of Christ.
The Easter Bunny Rises
As the popularity of this new tradition grew with the further expansion of Catholicism, it collided with cultures that had no idea what a hare was. "Is it like a rabbit?" they'd ask. The bunny rabbit, in population and linguistics, was much more common, and eventually became the Easter symbol we know today. During 16th century Easters, Germanic people were still celebrating the fertility of the rabbit and ceremoniously dying eggs. By the mid-18th century, children from the Holy Roman Empire to the colony of Pennsylvania were spending Easter hiding hats and bonnets in their homes in the hope that they'd been good enough for "Oschter Haws" to lay colorful eggs in the hat-nests. What happened?
Nobody knows. All that is clear is that during the 17th century, Germans started telling their kids to hide hats and be nice so that an Easter bunny would lay eggs in it. These Germans migrated to the Pennsylvania Dutch country and the tradition followed. It not only gave the dyed eggs a purpose, but there were a lot of eggs stockpiled because the Catholic Church forbade the eating of eggs during Lent. So, we have the Germans to thank for the Easter Bunny - the original way to get children to enjoy the holiday.
Baskets Make it Better
It didn't take long for some kid to cry, "I don't want a rabbit giving birth in my hat! I gotta wear that hat." The Easter basket was an easy replacement. Some kids would take the vibrant eggs to their parents and exchange them for gifts or sweets. This practice evolved over time and today Oschter Haws, now just called "Easter Bunny" for brevity's sake, skips the middle-man entirely and just puts candies and gifts in the basket along with a few colored eggs. An Easter basket.
Easter Gift Basket Ideas
Modern celebration of Easter should now make as much sense to you as it does to anyone else. What comes next is dying a few eggs and getting a big enough basket. Also, don't depend on a bunny in a vest bursting into your home at 4 in the morning Easter Sunday and firing off a few eggs and candies into that basket stowed away in the linen closet. You're the one who needs to pick out these prizes!
Finding a gift basket featuring spring pastel colors isn't a problem, we've got that covered. What you need to concern yourself with is content. Staples: chocolate eggs, marshmallow chicks, and jelly beans.
There are unique gift options here as well. People today have higher standards, and kids today won't exactly be losing hours of their day playing with their brand new... egg. Get a basket that has a stuffed animal or maybe a slinky. Games and movies gift baskets have numerous board games that would be perfect for this occasion as well. Just keep the toys and presents simple: it's Easter, not Christmas.
We recommend being active and celebrating the holiday the way it was originally intended, as a welcome to spring. Go outside with your kids with a gardening gift basket and plant some flowers that the family can watch grow and blossom as the world springs back into vibrant life.
So what are you waiting for? You've got the history and you've got the tools - get out there and make us proud, Oschter Haws!