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The Hare-Raising Origins of Our Easter Traditions

Mini Cheesecake Baskets

Take a break from planning the Easter brunch and Easter dinner menus to brush up on the history of Easter traditions and lore. While you’re making the deviled eggs, you can tell the kids about the history of Easter eggs, baskets and the famous White House Easter Egg Roll.

History of Easter Eggs

Eggs have long been associated with new life, fertility and rebirth. It’s not surprising, then, that they have taken on a symbolic meaning to a number of different cultures over the years. In fact, the decorating of eggs can be traced back thousands of years to the springtime celebration of Nowruz, or the Iranian New Year.

Easter eggs as we know them most likely evolved in the medieval period of Christianity, when rules around fasting for Lent were much stricter. Members of the church would abstain from all meat and animal-related products for the entirety of the several-week period. During that time, they would save the eggs that their chickens produced and hard boil them for use later. Once Easter finally arrived, the eggs would be part of the feast and were often distributed to the poor who could not afford meat. The Easter tradition of coloring eggs is especially important to Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches. Oftentimes the eggs are dyed red to symbolize the blood of Jesus.  

History of the Easter Bunny

There is evidence to suggest that pagan religions in Europe celebrated a spring festival in honor of the fertility goddess Eostre, from which the word “Easter” may be derived! Given that Eostre was a fertility goddess, it’s a pretty safe bet that we know why the animal identified with her is a bunny.

We probably have the Germans to thank for the modern Easter Bunny, however. This Easter tradition was first mentioned in writing in the 1500s. By the early 1800s, Germans were making edible Easter bunnies. German settlers introduced the Easter bunny to American children in the 1700s.

History of Easter Baskets

It was also the German settlers in the US that introduced the idea of Easter baskets. Easter baskets were originally made to look like birds' nests. Lined with grass, they were a safe and cozy place for eggs to be deposited by the Osterhase, or Easter Bunny. Today's Easter baskets, lined with "grass" are a safe and cozy place for a host of treats like jelly beans, chocolate bunnies and even playful cookies. JELL-O® JIGGLERS® and JELL-O EGG JIGGLERS have also been Easter favorites for years! 

History of the Easter Egg Roll at the White House

The custom of the Easter Egg Roll in this country got started when John Payne Todd, son of President James Madison and his wife Dolly, told his mother that children of ancient Egypt rolled eggs outside the pyramids. While that bit of historical trivia cannot be proven, a White House Easter Egg Roll has taken place, usually on the South Lawn, ever since the fourth presidency! Keep an eye out for Humpty Dumpty at this event. He has been known to make an appearance at the annual Easter Egg Roll from time to time. Check out our tips for planning your own egg-traordinary Easter Egg Hunt.

No matter what Easter traditions your family celebrates, we hope you enjoy everything you’ve learned on the history of Easter from Kraft Recipes!