Easter Symbols: Religious and Non-Religious – Any Connection?

Easter Symbols - Religious Easter Symbols - Non-religious Easter symbols - Christian Symbols

Easter Symbols: Religious and Non-Religious – Any Connection?

There are many religious symbols and traditions that surround Easter: Lent Season, Holy Week, Good Friday and the image of the cross, or Easter Sunday and the empty tomb. Also, there are non-religious symbols and traditions observed across the globe. These include the Easter bunny, colored eggs, gift baskets, and flowers. Are there any relationships between the two? Sort of like Santa Claus brings gifts on Christmas (or we give gifts to each other) emulating the gift God gave man on Christmas – His Son as the savior of the world.

How Did a Rabbit Distributing Eggs Become a Part of Easter? 

There are several reasons for the rabbit, the most obvious is the hare’s fertility.  Easter comes during spring and celebrates new life. The Christian meaning of new life through Christ and a general emphasis on new life are different, but the two gradually merged. Any animals (like the hare) that produced many offspring were easy to include.

The hare is also an
ancient symbol for the moon. The date of Easter depends on the
moon. This may have helped the hare to be absorbed into Easter

The hare or rabbit’s burrow helped the animal’s adoption as part of Easter celebrations. Believers saw the rabbit coming out of its underground home as a symbol for Jesus coming out of the tomb. Perhaps this was another case of taking a pre-existing symbol and giving it a Christian meaning.

The Easter hare came to America with German immigrants, and the hare’s role passed to the common American rabbit. Originally, children made nests for the rabbit in hats, bonnets, or fancy paper boxes, rather than the baskets of today. 

What about the Easter Eggs?

Next to the Easter bunny, the most familiar symbol is the Easter egg. Like others, the egg has a long pre-Christian history. Early Christians looked at the connection eggs had in life and decided eggs could be a part of their celebration of Christ’s resurrection. In addition, in some areas, eggs were forbidden during Lent; therefore, they were a delicacy at Easter. 

In 1290, Edward I of
England recorded a purchase of 450 eggs to be colored or covered with gold
leaf. He then gave the eggs to members of the royal household.

Once the custom became accepted, new traditions began to grow around it. Eggs were dyed red for joy and in memory of Christ’s blood. Egg rolling contests came to America from England, possibly as a reminder of the stone being rolled away. 

What about the
familiar Easter Egg hunt? One source suggested that it grew out of the
tradition of German children searching for hidden pretzels during the Easter
season. Since children were hiding nests for the Easter Bunny to fill with
eggs at the same time, they were hunting pretzels, it was only a small leap to
begin hiding eggs instead.

Those New Clothes at Easter?

New clothes have long
been associated with the idea of newness and a fresh beginning. The
familiar custom of having new clothes for Easter probably began with early Christians
wearing new white robes for baptism during Easter Vigil services. Later,
the custom expanded to everyone wearing new clothes in celebration of a
person’s new life in Christ.

The Easter Lily Flower?

The Easter lily is
another new addition to Easter celebrations. Throughout the years, painters and
sculptors used the white Madonna lily to symbolize purity and innocence,
frequently referring to Mary. This lily doesn’t transfer well seasonally, so
nurseries couldn’t get the flower to bloom in time for Easter.

In the 1880s, the Bermuda lily bulbs were transplanted in Philadelphia. A local nurseryman saw the lilies and introduced them to the trade. As a more practical consideration, they were easy to force into bloom in time for the Easter season to symbolize the purity and innocence of Jesus as the Savior of the World. From there, the Bermuda lily, now the familiar Easter lily, spread throughout the country.

Have you read my article about The Extraordinary Everyday Hero?


Richardson, A. E. (date). What Is Easter: Understanding the History and Symbols. Retrieved from crosswalk.com.

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