History solves the mysteries behind Easter's traditions

History solves the mysteries behind Easter's traditions

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Easter is near, and the egg hunts are here! Most people know that Easter is an international and multicultural celebration of life and renewal, but the reasoning choice of some symbols, like the egg and bunny, are not as well known.

Easter's timing intersects with Lent, and rise of Christ, along with Nowruz, which is the Iranian New Year. The egg, which is a symbol of fertility and life, is often a popular Easter treat paint, find and eat. 

Decorating eggs is one of the oldest Easter customs in existence. The Outreach Center Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University published a journal where the historical origin of decorating eggs during spring in the Middle East was explored. Most commonly, eggs were decorated during Nowruz, which is celebrated around the spring equinox. 

According to the History Channel, decorated eggs were commonly given as gifts by royals and the socially elite during the early 19th century. Russian Czar Alexander III popularized jewel-encrusted eggs when he had artist Peter Carl Fabergé design some for his wife. 

In Western European countries, many churches forbade the consumption of eggs during lent, so on Easter, they were cooked to celebrate the end of lent along with the rise of Christ, and new life. 

Some Catholic churches dye boiled eggs red to represent Christ's rebirth. The Orthodox Church in America organization credits the red egg to the legend of St. Mary Magdalene traveling to Rome soon after the resurrection, and meeting the Emperor. Once she met the Emperor she presented him with a red egg, and exclaimed "Christ is risen". Though the practice has faded in some areas over the years, some churches still celebrate inscribing the initials "C.R." for "Christ is Risen" in gold letters on the surface of the egg.

The Easter bunny has a fuzzy history. The Ancient Origins website offered a theory of the pagan goddess Eastra's spring celebration being the inspiration behind the Christian holiday. Though there is little evidence to support the claim, her association with the holiday is believed to have helped popularize the hare. The History channel described a similar Anglo-Saxon goddess of fertility and spring, Eostre, which pagan tribes would celebrate out dating Christianity.

Rabbits are also an ancient symbol of new life, but in other countries, eggs are brought to children by different animals. During the 17th Century, bunnies were popularized in Protestant Europe. A century later, the trend was brought to the Americas by German immigrants.

The theories behind these symbols may differ, but here's a fact: Easter is the second-best candy-selling holiday. Candy consumption is a modern twist on the ancient holiday. Jellybeans were popularized in the 1930s, because of their egg-like shape.

Now that you know why we eat chocolate bunnies and hunt for painted eggs, find out where to do it! Click here for a list of Easter Egg Hunts and other Easter events in the Grand Strand and Pee Dee.

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