We all know what Easter is about, don’t we? It has three meanings: for a Christian it marks the resurrection of Jesus, for a pagan it celebrates the reawakening of nature after the winter, and for many it is just a few days off work and a chance to indulge in more chocolate than is good for them!
Just like Christmas is associated with holly, robins, trees and snow, there are a few things that we relate to Easter. But have you ever wondered why? What have bonnets got to do with either Jesus or spring? Well, come with me as I search for the origins and meanings of Easter’s symbols…
Eggs – Eggs have been a symbol of life for many thousands of years, so it’s no surprise that they have become a part of Easter. Most birds lay their eggs at this time of year and new life will emerge from them. To Christians, the egg is a metaphor for Jesus’ tomb – a hard container for the new life that would emerge
Chicks – Just as eggs represent the seed of life, chicks are the actual life that emerges. In the wild we see the first baby birds hatching from their eggs around Easter time and so it is only natural that our ancestors saw them as a part of nature’s awakening. To a Christian the chick represents Jesus Himself, newly awakened from His tomb
The Easter Bunny – Rabbits and hares have long been symbols of fertility (you must have heard the phrase ‘breeding like rabbits’). Both give birth to large litters at this time of year and so are associated with spring. This Easter tradition has very little to do with Christianity – there are many Christians who see the Easter Bunny as a distraction from the season’s true meaning, much like Santa is to Christmas
Lamb – Like chicks, these baby animals represent new life – although by now they are a few months old. The lamb as a symbol of Easter owes much more to Christianity than to pagan customs. In Jesus’ time lambs were sacrificed to God as a payment for people’s sins. Jesus Himself was said to be ‘the lamb of God’. This meant that He was sacrificed to pay the price for our transgressions
Hot Cross Buns – Buns marked with a cross were made by our pagan ancestors, although they were nothing to do with Easter. They were actually symbolic of the Moon and its four quarters. When Christianity arrived on our shores, with its devotion to the crucifix, these buns took on a new meaning. They became a part of Easter with the cross representing Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for our sins
Bonnet – Finally we come to the Easter bonnet. What on earth could a hat have to do with the Christian message or with spring? Well, the bonnet is all that remains of an old tradition. People used to wear new clothes at Easter time. No doubt you can see why – it’s all about rebirth and starting anew (spring cleaning is a similar custom). Nowadays we get ourselves new sets of clothes at any time of year but (as is so often the case with festivals) a part of the past has clung on, though its origin and meaning has been forgotten by all but a few
Happy Easter from all of us at Education Quizzes!