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What the Heck Happened to Easter?

Buzzle Staff Apr 17, 2019
What do bunnies and eggs have to do with Jesus? Everything.
Easter is arguably the most important holiday in the Christian faith - the celebration of Jesus's rise from the dead, confirming his status as the son of God. What could be more moving to a person of faith than the yearly remembrance of the definitive establishment of the savior?
Most practicing Christians attend church on Easter Sunday, and in fact, Easter is the one day other than Christmas when lax Christians are coaxed to church. The ceremony is beautiful, both solemn and celebratory - then what do they do?
They go home and eat candy and hunt for colored eggs dropped off by a bunny. What? Every year, along with bright spring dresses and pretty hats, Easter brings out the pedants who honk on mightily about how bunnies and eggs and candy have nothing to do with the Resurrection. Well, they're right - but also wrong. Here's how our modern Easter came to be:

The Eggs

The practice of coloring eggs for Easter is so ancient that nobody knows exactly when it started. People do know that red was the most popular color, symbolizing the blood of Christ, but green was also used to symbolize the new spring grass.
Eggs are a symbol of fertility that were commonly used to celebrate the coming of spring (or the end of winter), and that custom may have gotten tied up with Christian Easter celebrations because Catholics were not allowed to eat eggs during Lent. Once Easter arrived, it was eggs for everybody! So what about the bunny...?

The Bunny

The Easter bunny is definitely a leftover Pagan symbol that was part of the annual springtime celebration. Bunnies breed extremely prolifically - a female can have several litters every year, and can carry two at once - so they are a natural fertility symbol.
This easy breeding convinced ancient scholars that the bunny must be hermaphroditic, able to reproduce with itself, without a loss of virginity. This is how the bunny became linked to the Virgin Mary, then to the holiday that happened to coincide with the traditional Pagan springtime celebration.
The idea that the Easter bunny brought the eggs was an old German fable that came to the U.S. with 19th-century immigrants. Originally, children would make nests for the bunny in their hats. Over time, those nests evolved into today's Easter baskets.

The Chocolate

Early 19th-century Europe was chocolate crazy, and it wasn't long before candy makers decided that Easter could be a candy holiday as much as a religious holiday. They latched onto the egg symbol and began producing solid eggs, then hollow ones.
Of course, chocolate making was very different back then, and making hollow eggs required a huge amount of skill - and buying said eggs wasn't exactly affordable to everyone.
About a hundred years later, chocolate making technology advanced to the point where it was possible to manufacture the chocolate eggs on a large scale, bringing down the price. By the middle of the 20th century, chocolate eggs and then chocolate bunnies were available worldwide.

The Sugar

Other candy makers saw the chocolatiers cashing in and decided they wanted their fair share. Jelly beans were first, in the 1930s, as they are shaped similar to an egg and were seen as a natural addition to the modern Easter basket (some heavy marketing didn't hurt).
Year after year saw different candies vie for a piece of valuable basket real estate, but nothing caught on quite like Peeps. Peeps have been around since the early 20th century, but they were handmade - each one took about 27 hours to make. Like the original chocolate eggs, this put them out of the price range for most people. 
By the 1950s, technology advanced to the point where the entire process became mechanized, allowing for a much larger production run and wider distribution, securing the Peeps's place in our collective Easter memories.
Americans spend about USD 2 billion on Easter candy every year. It competes with Valentine's candy on store shelves in mid-January, so it can be forgiven for temporarily forgetting the true reason for the holiday. But once one walks into church on that Sunday morning, he remembers. For the best results, hide the candy from the kids until AFTER mass.