When thinking about decorating your home for the Easter holiday the mind goes to bright pastels, fresh flowers, baskets full of colorful eggs, chicks and bunnies. Ever wonder how baby animals, eggs, and a mythical bunny became a part of this Christian holiday? While Easter is a celebration of Jesus Christ's resurrection, it has also evolved over centuries to include pagan traditions.
The name Easter is derived from the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring, Eostre. The month of April was dedicated to Eostre, and the festival of Eostre was celebrated on the vernal equinox, the one day of the year when the hours of sunlight equal the hours of darkness.
When English Christians were trying to convert others to their religion, they kept the name of the old spring festival in order to make the potential converts more comfortable with both the religion and the holiday. Therefore, modern day Easter includes both religious and pagan symbols.
Flowers are the quintessential image of spring. And while adorning your home with multitudes of flowers is a must this season, there are certain types of flowers that are representative of the Easter holiday.
Lily: White lilies are the traditional Easter flower. The flower is a symbol of love and hope, and the white petals represent purity. The single flower stemming from one bulb is representative of Christ's resurrection. Additionally, some have noted that lilies grew from the ground where drops of Jesus' blood fell.
Tulip: Tulips stand for passion and love, and are traditionally exchanged between lovers on Easter. Red tulips declare love, and yellow tulips indicate that one is "hopelessly in love". Tulips are also touted as the "heralds of spring" making them perfect for Easter decoration.
Daffodil: Daffodils also have a bond with romance and happiness. Daffodils symbolize the end of winter (hardship) and the onset of new beginnings and prosperity. Also known as the "Lent Lily", Daffodils have become synonymous with Easter flowers.
Hyacinth: Known for its incredibly sweet fragrance, hyacinths are another spring staple. Each color, however, has different implications. Purple flowers ask for forgiveness, yellow stands for jealousy, white stands for loveliness, and red or pink symbolize playfulness.
Daisy: A very popular Easter flower, it represents purity, innocence and calmness.
Azalea: Representative of delicate passion and temperance, azaleas at Easter time signify your desire for someone to take care of themselves.
Easter Bunny: Originally the Easter Hare, the Easter Bunny represents fertility since rabbits and hares have multiple pregnancies and births throughout the spring. Female rabbits are actually capable of superfetation, becoming pregnant with a second litter while still being pregnant with the first.
The tradition of a large bunny laying eggs in a nest for good children was brought to the United States from Eastern Europe.
Eggs: Eggs are another symbol of abundant fertility. Since birds lay eggs in early spring, eggs naturally became an icon during the early pagan celebration held on the vernal equinox.
Catholics fast during Lent, the forty days leading up to Easter, and eggs used to be forbidden during the Lenten season. That is why eggs are so abundant on the Easter table.
The origin of dyeing eggs cannot be pinpointed. However, dyed eggs show up in both pagan and religious fashion in past spring celebrations. The Eastern Orthodox tradition of dyeing eggs red symbolizes the blood Christ shed on the cross. And, it has been recorded that ancient Greeks, Persians, Romans and Egyptians dyed eggs for spring festivals.
Baby Animals: All baby animals exemplify new life and stand for the "new life" Jesus gave his followers because of his sacrifice on the cross. Certain animals have become more prominent during Easter season for various reasons, however. Lambs are symbolic of Jesus Christ, who is referred to as "the Lamb of God" throughout the Bible. Chicks break out of eggs to begin their life's journey, just as Christ came forth from the tomb and resurrected. The butterfly is a very important symbol of Easter, as its metamorphosis has become an analogy to Christ's life. The caterpillar signifies his life on earth, the cocoon symbolizes his death and burial, and the emergence of the butterfly symbolizes his resurrection.
Candles: Candles during Easter stand for Jesus being the "light of the world".