Why Do We Hunt Easter Eggs?

Eric Sentell

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Basket of Easter EggsRodion Kutsaev on Unsplash

Whether you celebrate Easter at a church or a brunch restaurant, I bet at some point this Sunday, April 17, you will spend a large chunk of time decorating, filling with candy, hiding, and searching for some colorfully painted Easter Eggs.

But why do we hunt Easter Eggs to celebrate the Christian holiday of Easter? The Easter Bunny isn't in the Bible, and neither are anything resembling Easter Eggs. No Biblical characters embark on an Easter Egg hunt.

Like most traditions we take for granted, there's a long history behind the Easter Bunny and hunting Easter Eggs.

Why Do We Have Easter Eggs?

How did eggs become associated with celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus?

Eggs have considered a symbol of spring, new life, and fertility for many thousands of years. They also make a good symbol of the death and resurrection of Jesus. The empty shell resembles the empty tomb.

In Medieval Europe, practicing Christians did not eat eggs during Lent, a 40-day period of fasting leading up to Good Friday and Easter.

Decorating, hiding, finding, and eating eggs became a way of celebrating the end of fasting, the restoration of a typical diet, and the Resurrection of Jesus.

Where Did the Easter Bunny Come From?

Rabbits are renown for producing lots and lots of babies. Therefore, they have been a symbol of life and fertility since ancient times.

As spring warms, and Easter approaches, rabbits tend to become more active, and people spot them more often. The association of rabbits and Easter is a natural one.

The first written reference to an Easter Bunny occurred in1682 in Georg Franck von Franckenau’s essay, De ovis paschalibus (‘About Easter eggs’).

In the 1700s, German immigrants brought to America the tradition of an Easter Bunny who delivered colorful eggs to well-behaved children.

Seeking every scrap of motivation for children to behave well, American parents embraced the Easter Bunny tradition, and it spread throughout the country.

Why Do We Hunt Easter Eggs?

The Easter Egg hunt originated in Germany. Some people believe that Martin Luther organized the first Easter Egg hunts for his congregation in the late 1500s.

How do you follow up leading the Protestant Reformation? I guess you start a new Easter tradition.

Whoever held the first Easter Egg hunt, we know that German people spread the custom throughout Europe and the Americas. German immigrants and royalty brought their Easter traditions to new places, where they were widely accepted.

Queen Victoria's mother, who was German, hid Easter Eggs for her in Kensington Palace. Victoria and her German husband, Albert, continued the tradition of Easter Egg hunts with their children. Naturally, the rest of England wanted to emulate the Royal family.

But England and Scotland already had the tradition of "egg rolling," or rolling hard-boiled eggs down a grassy hill while children chased after them. Egg hunts were not a stretch for the English.

The Victorians of the late 19th and early 20th centuries were fascinated by tradition and focused on family. They embraced the Easter Bunny and Easter Egg Hunts as important celebrations of family life and opportunities for children to enjoy themselves.

Around the 1950s, chocolate and candy companies recognized the marketing opportunity that Easter's popularity offered.

Summary

Originating in Germany, the Easter Bunny and Easter Eggs built on the ancient symbolism of rabbits and eggs as well as the association of rabbits with spring and eggs with the end of Lent.

Easter Egg Hunts began in Germany in the late 1500s, possibly with Martin Luther's church. Then German immigrants spread the custom throughout Europe and the Americas.

People in Europe and the Americas embraced these Easter traditions as motivation for children to behave, as celebrations of the end of Lent and the advent of Easter, and as important family events.

Sources:

The History of the Egg Hunt

Easter Symbols and Traditions

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