Spring has sprung, flowers are bursting forth in a riotous display of color and the Easter bunny is on his way.
The Easter season is upon us, inviting the warmth of family gatherings as well as warmer weather, in addition to the unique promise of the lengthening of days.
It is a mystery to most, why Easter falls on a different date each year. Why can’t Easter be on the same date yearly, like Halloween and Christmas, some ask? The resulting confusion spills over into spring breaks, with each school district and college choosing its own, some the week before Easter and some after, and others not related to Easter at all.
The determination for Easter dates was made by the Council of Nicene in A.D. 325, and has not been changed since. Easter falls on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox (March 21). This means that Easter can never be earlier than March 22 or later than April 25. Now you know! Whether early in March or late in April, Easter comes with an established set of traditions in most families. These usually include dying eggs in those familiar Paas dye egg cups — a childhood tradition that still seems fun even for college students! An egg hunt, inside or outside, appeals to a child’s love of treasure hunting and gathering.
Eggs have always been an ancient symbol of the miracle of new life. Elaborate painting of Easter eggs became an art in Eastern Europe, whereas many country folks discovered natural dyes by boiling onion skins, rhubarb or young grass to color their eggs.
A unique U.S. tradition, initiated a few years before the Civil War, is the egg rolling contest held on the lawn of the White House, with the president and his family in attendance.
Easter bunnies abound the world over, although they come in many different forms and unique personalities. In German-speaking countries, children wait for Oster Haas, after preparing pretty nests for him.
In Panama, children wait expectantly for a colorfully painted rabbit called the Conejo, who brings them eggs. And of course, American children seem to focus on sweets, expecting a basket filled with jelly beans and perhaps a large chocolate egg from Sees, as well as small gifts from the Easter Bunny.
Based on the knowledge that rabbits produce large families, the Easter bunny idea originated as a symbol of new life as well, and gradually took center stage to represent this spring holiday. Some parents have elaborated their bunny traditions, going to the trouble of “painting” white bunny footprints on the front sidewalk by using a bunny foot stencil and sifted flour, for their children to discover on Easter morning. Others go to great lengths to fill plastic eggs with small prizes, and even resort to filling some with money to keep their teens interested in playing the egg hunt game.
Parents who also wish to share their Christian beliefs with their children at Easter can do so in various age-appropriate ways. Many families begin their Easter celebration by attending church together. The biblical story of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection is a difficult concept for very young children to comprehend completely. However, these faith beliefs can be passed onto children in various ways: by reading simple children’s books, by hiding “Easter Story Eggs” (that contain symbols of the Easter story inside) as part of the egg hunt, by sharing hot cross buns topped with a frosting cross with special meaning on Good Friday, or by reading C.S. Lewis’ “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” (also available on DVD), an allegory of the Christian Easter story.
A few days before Easter, Jewish parents began celebrating Passover (first full moon of spring) with their children, commemorating the release of the Hebrews from slavery by the Egyptian Pharaoh, and the exodus led by Moses.
The account is told in full in the biblical “Book of Exodus.” This celebration is rich with traditional foods and readings from the Haggadah.
The integration of Easter’s fun aspects — eggs, baskets, bunnies and sparkling new Easter shoes and hats — along with the deeper religious meaning of resurrection and the promise of new life, as well as the freeing of the Hebrew people, makes this holiday rich in traditions and warm family celebrations.
Spring has sprung. Winter is done. Easter’s come! Enjoy all that the season has to offer your family.
TRY SOMETHING NEW:
Start the day by attending the church of your choice. Or an early, outdoor sunrise service may be fun for children as well as teens. Then take your Easter celebration into the springy great outdoors! Instead of ham and scalloped potatoes around the dining room table, take a picnic of ham buns and traditional fixings to a park and combine lunch with your fun egg hunt. Dye eggs outside, then have a rollicking race, pushing those eggs along the ground with spoons. Have everyone bring a fun hat, and end with a fashionable Easter parade. Share the fun with several families!