Easter can represent many occasions for different people. To some, it's the first sign of spring. For others, it's a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which represents the foundation of Christian faith. Want to impress your friends and family this Easter-season with some mind-blowing facts about this widely celebrated holiday? Take a quick look below to see how Easter became the holiday that we celebrate today.
It seems that no one is completely certain when the Easter Bunny first showed up. However, the United States' tradition of the hare might date back to German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania in the 1700s. They reportedly celebrated the folktale of a hare named Osterhase or Oschter Haws who happened to lay eggs.
The immigrant children continued the tradition in their new home in the States. Their celebration involved making nests for the hare's eggs. Over the years, the children's nests evolved into baskets, and a new tradition was born.
Some people believe that the Easter Bunny tradition has pagan roots. Many connect the hare to Eostre, an Anglo-Saxon goddess. One of her symbols? The rabbit, associated in many cultures with fertility. Given that fertility is often linked to themes of birth and renewal, it makes sense that the egg-laying Easter Bunny eventually became connected to the holiday celebrating Jesus Christ's resurrection.
Decorating eggs itself isn't a unique practice to this holiday. In fact, the oldest known evidence of egg decorating comes from 60,000-year-old ostrich shells. However, the Easter tradition of dying eggs might have begun with Mesopotamian Christians. There are records of them participating in egg-dying ceremonies; red-dyed eggs came to symbolize the blood of Christ.
Americans love Peeps. Like, really love Peeps. In the U.S., it is estimated that 700 million Peeps are devoured every year. In fact, there's enough Peeps made annually to circle the Earth. Twice.
It's true! People used to make Peeps by hand. It was a lengthy process, too. It could take up to 27 hours from start to finish to complete one of these marshmallows back in the day. This is because, without automation, the original Peeps-makers had to craft them one by one. For reference, it now only takes 6 minutes to complete this task with modern technology.
Most people know that the White House holds an Easter Egg Roll every year. When did this tradition start? In 1878, with President Rutherford B. Hayes. That year, he hosted the first White House Easter Egg Roll, letting local children play on the White House lawn. It's been a tradition ever since.
In 1918, the White House cancelled the Roll due to food rationing for World War I. Eggs during wartime were considered such a precious commodity that officials felt that they couldn't be spared for leisurely pursuits.
During World War II, rations were back in place. This meant that the White House once again cancelled the Roll in 1943, 1944, and 1945. World War II ended in 1945, but the Roll still didn't happen in either 1946 or 1947. This cancellation was necessary as the U.S. needed to conserve food for the first couple years after the war's end. After that, construction prevented the annual event for several more years. Since 1952, however, the White House Easter Egg Roll has continued.
Chocolate Easter eggs first appeared in the early 1800s in Europe. Like early Peeps, these chocolates were handcrafted. Cadbury, a now-popular brand for chocolate eggs, originally made these goodies with unsweetened or dark chocolate in the late 19th century. In 1905, Cadbury started making eggs with milk chocolate instead. Cadbury credits this change with making chocolate Easter eggs so popular. Now, chocolate eggs have become a favorite for millions.
While Christian denominations around the world celebrate Easter, they don't all celebrate it at the same time. Why is that? Well, western Christian denominations use the Gregorian calendar. So for these sects, Easter falls somewhere between March and April. In contrast, Eastern Orthodox Christianity uses the Julian calendar. As a result? The celebration happens a little later, sometime between April and May.