I remember when I was in college, an English professor told our class that although Christmas was the more popular of the Christian holidays, Easter was actually the more important to the devout. Over the years, the commercialization of both holidays has meant big business to retailers. So if you’re lost in a haze of colorful hard boiled-eggs and chocolates too numerous to count, let’s break down Easter into its essential elements and explain, for starters, just why bunnies are connected to religion.
When did Easter first become an established holy celebration? Despite Easter being about the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, it wasn’t until 325 A.D. that the First Council of Nicaea determined that Easter would fall on first Sunday after the Paschal (a term which relates to both Easter and Passover) full moon, which is simply the full moon that occurs on or nearest to March 21st; western Christians find that Easter always falls on a Sunday between March 22nd and April 25th. Speaking of Passover, Easter is linked to this Jewish celebration by much of its symbolism – not just by the two falling closely together on the calendar (this year, Passover runs from April 3rd to April 11th). Because Easter’s date changes every year, it’s called a “moveable feast.”
Why are there so many symbols – many of which seem to have nothing whatsoever connected to Christianity – that make people immediately think of Easter? While that fluffy stuffed/real bunny may not seem anything but just plain cute, there is (as is the case in many instances) an amalgamation of both religious and secular symbolism going on. The rabbit by itself has zero to do with the death and resurrection of Christ, but because polytheistic cultures (mostly in Germany) adopted them as fertility symbols long ago – and fertility means resurrection – it follows that German Christians eventually started associating rabbits with Easter, which made its way to the American colonies in the 1700s when Germans started filtering into Pennsylvania Dutch county.
For more fairly fascinating explanations into why we associate certain things with Easter, visit and quick and entertaining tutorial courtesy of the History Channel right here.
Even though it’s too late to get straight-up Easter swag for this year, there are plenty of spring flowers and the like that transcend all seasons (and who doesn’t love a cute bunny any time of year?). So start planting some post-Easter pretties all over, and Have a very Happy Easter!