Easter is Josh’s favorite holiday. Always has been. While he enjoys going to church (Easter Hymns are his favorite of the year,) he mostly enjoys the day because…well…when you really think about it, it has some of the funniest, most absurd traditions of any holiday. Bunnies bearing baskets. Beans made of jelly. Brightly colored eggs hidden around the house and yard. Santa seems downright boring by comparison.
At Beekman, we always love to discover the story behind the stories, so we decided to research a bit more about some of these strange Easter traditions.
The first recorded celebration of Easter was back in the second century, but it probably goes back even further than that. According to one popular theory, early Christians adopted Easter from a pagan festival celebrating Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and fertility. The goddess consorted with a hare which, as the theory goes, was the original inspiration for today’s Easter Bunny. But it appears that little evidence exists to support this story so, where did the Easter Bunny actually come from?
Rabbits are an ancient symbol of fertility and new life, two ideas strongly associated with spring Easter. The connection between rabbits and Easter arose in Protestant Europe in the 17th century, and was probably brought to America a century later by German immigrants. Many German farmers settled the lands here in Upstate New York’s Schoharie Valley, so it’s quite possible that many of the early-American Easter traditions started right here in our own backyard!
But the Easter Bunny isn’t the only animal associated with the holiday. In Switzerland, a Cuckoo delivers the Easter eggs, while in different parts of Germany, kids wait for the Easter fox, chick, rooster, or stork. Sadly, it doesn’t seem like there’s any tradition of an Easter Goat. We’ll start working on that.
While eggs also symbolize fertility and renewal, they may have become popular on Easter for a more practical reason. For centuries, the Christian church banned eggs, along with other foods during Lent, and it became a special treat to eat them again at Easter. Decorating eggs is one of the oldest and most lavish Easter customs, and traditions developed in late 19th century Russia when royalty and other members of high society began giving each other jewel-encrusted eggs as Easter gifts. The man behind these insanely valuable eggs was the artist, jeweler, goldsmith Peter Carl Fabergé, who was commissioned by Czar Alexander III to create jeweled Easter eggs for his wife. Guess which eggs we won’t be hiding during this year’s Easter egg hunt? (hint: any encrusted in precious jewels)
For most American kids, however, Easter is really all about the sweet stuff…. CANDY! U.S. candymakers produce 90 million chocolate bunnies, and 16 billion jelly beans for Easter each year. (We bet there’s probably, like, 1 billion black jelly beans thrown away each year too.) Jelly beans were invented in the 17th century, but they only became an Easter candy in the 1930s after merchants pointed out how much they looked like mini Easter eggs. Today, more candy is sold for Easter than any other holiday, except for Halloween, and nearly 90% of American parents prepare Easter baskets for their kids.
From everyone at Beekman 1802, including the Easter Goat (let’s see if we can make that stick,) we wish you peace, love, and happiness this spring.