What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Easter fun traditions? Is it your local Easter Day Parade or gathering with family? With young children at home you may be thinking about egg hunts or find yourself packing dyed eggs and chocolates for Easter baskets. You might even remember the time you shopped for your first Easter outfit. Fun Easter traditions develop over time in every family but how did these universal customs start?
In the United States, Easter celebrations did not evolve until several years after the Civil War. The nation started putting aside the painful memories of the Civil War and women exchanged their somber mourning clothing for brighter and happier colors. The New York parade started in the 1870’s as a spontaneous event, as people spilled out into the streets after Easter services and just started walking. With each passing year, the celebrations increased in popularity as affluent women wanted to be seen and noticed until it grew to over a million people in 1947. It has become less popular for live attendance in recent years, perhaps because it is televised. The parade itself is with or without religious significance and anyone and everyone are welcome to join in the fun. Today, the parade is an opportunity for people to proudly show off their “Sunday best” including their Easter bonnets or colorful costumes. We tend to think of Fifth Ave in NYC, from 48th St – 57th St as THE EASTER PARADE, but many small towns have them too. They will probably always remain a key Easter fun tradition.
According to Wikipedia, Easter processions or parades have long been a part of Christian culture. There are records in the Bible of two processions in the first Holy Week that were the earliest precursors to modern Easter parades. The first was Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and the second took place as Jesus carried a cross to Calvary.
Easter bonnets go back to when women acted out the rites of spring while wearing a circle of leaves and flowers on their heads- this symbolized the coming of Spring. Wearing bonnets in a parade is a fanciful way to carry on the tradition and celebrate the coming of the new season. Easter bonnets today come in all shapes and sizes and typically have a floral motif or are trimmed with feathers and stuffed birds. People vie for attention with their elaborate spring millinery – the more outlandish they seem, the happier the wearer – as you can see in this fun-filled video.
The Easter Bunny and Easter Fun Traditions
There is no story in the bible about Easter bunnies laying eggs, children painting eggs or hunting for eggs. These traditions have folkloric roots that trace back to 13th Century pre-Christian Germany, when people worshiped several gods.
Eostra was the Pagan goddess of spring and fertility and her symbol was the rabbit due to its high fertility. Eggs were also an ancient symbol of fertility and joined the rabbit as a symbol of the rising fertility of the earth at the Vernal Equinox.
This symbolism was later seen in Medieval European church art and the legends continued through German Lutherism. Their tales told of an “Easter Hare”, dressed as a judge, who came to declare which of the children were deserving of Easter goodies – toys and candies.
These legends came to the United States in the 1700’s when German immigrants settled in Pennsylvania Dutch country. There the practice of building nests for rabbits to lay their eggs in began and developed into the gifting of decorated Easter baskets filled with candy- one of the many lighthearted traditions enjoyed today.
We wish you a fun filled, blessed Easter and an abundance of positive new beginnings this Spring!