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Top 8 Symbols of Easter With Meanings

Top 8 Symbols of Easter With Meanings

Easter is an important holiday celebrated by Christians all over the world. The symbols of Easter can be vital for you, your family, and your community. Have you ever wondered where these symbols come from and what their importance is in the context of this wonderful holiday? Well, we have just the guide for you! 

Easter is important for the Christian Church because it celebrates Jesus Christ’s resurrection. It comes on the first Sunday of Spring after the first full moon comes. Even if you aren’t particularly religious, you might still have plenty of family traditions on Easter that include some popular symbols of Easter.

It could be decorated Easter eggs or baskets left out for Easter bunnies to fill or simply families sitting together to eat traditional foods.

Everyone must be aware of their roots, which means understanding the symbols of Easter, their history, and how they have evolved over the years. Many of these symbols have been around for centuries, while others have only become popular in recent years. 

Let’s take a look here! 

1. Easter Eggs

Basket with easter eggs on white background.
Basket with easter eggs

If you take a closer look at history, you will notice that eggs have been used as part of spring festivals for centuries. They represent birth, life, renewal, and new beginnings –similar to springtime. In Mesopotamia, early Christians started using dyed eggs after Easter. This became a common practice in Orthodox Churches and continued to spread across Western Europe. This ancient tradition is now synonymous with Easter. 

Christians fast during Lent when Jesus spent some time in the wilderness. Eggs were one of the few foods that people could eat. Hence, eggs on Easter Sunday were a great treat for them too. 

History also outlines many superstitions and traditions about the use of eggs on Easter. It was believed that any eggs laid on the Good Friday would turn into diamonds if kept for a century.

Some believed that if you cooked some eggs on Good Friday and consumed them on Easter, it would prevent the risk of sudden death and improve fertility. People would also get their eggs blessed before eating them. Another superstition was that you would soon turn rich if the egg turned out to have two yolks. 

In modern times, Easter traditions with eggs continue, specially designed for kids to participate in the holiday like the egg hunt and rolling. The White House in America holds its annual White House Easter Egg Roll too.

This is a race in which children push hard-boiled, decorated eggs across the White House lawn. The first event happened in 1878 during the time when Rutherford. B Hayes was the president of the United States. 

Even though the event does not have any religious significance, many people believe that the egg rolling ceremony is symbolic of the stone used to block the tomb of Jesus from being rolled away, which would eventually lead to his resurrection.

2. Soft Pretzels

A picture of brown pretzels.
Brown pretzels
Image by planet_fox from Pixabay

The pretzel shape is a representation of people praying to God with their arms crossed over on opposite shoulders. This is how people usually prayed in medieval days.  In the middle age, baked pretzels were a common reward for young students.

Some historians also believe that the pretzel’s three holes also represent the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit of the Holy Trinity

Pretzels remained a popular snack during Lent. Catholics had to avoid dairy and meat, so pretzels offered a spiritual and filling snack that allowed fasting Christians to stay satisfied.

Historians have concluded that, during the 600s, the soft pretzels were created by a monk and were given to people as something to eat in the month of Lent. To make pretzels, one needs water, salt, and flour, so the believers can consume them. 

3. Dogwood Trees

Pink Dogwood Tree Blooming.
Pink Dogwood Tree Blooming
http://www.ForestWander.com, CC BY-SA 3.0 US, via Wikimedia Commons

Southern regions often have Christian traditions that highlight how the dogwood tree blossoms contain the scars of the crucifixion of Jesus. They tend to bloom when spring comes around; hence, their connection to Easter.

This comparison comes from how the petals have blood-colored tips while the flower itself has a cross shape with four flowers. The center of the flower is compared to the throne crown on Jesus’s head. 

It is also believed that dogwood was used to make the cross that Jesus died on. God is said to have gnarled and twisted the branches and trunk of the tree so that it was never again used to make crosses. 

4. Easter Bunny

Easter bunnies emerging from eggs.
Easter bunnies emerging from eggs
Image Courtesy: Piqsels

Christianity doesn’t have any mythical bunny who delivers Easter eggs to children, so where does this symbol of Easter come from? Well, the rabbit’s relation to Easter comes from an ancient pagan ritual of the Festival of Eostre.

This was an annual tradition to honor the pagan goddess of spring and fertility. The symbol of the goddess was a rabbit. Rabbits are connected with fertility because they are known to have high reproduction rates. 

The Easter Bunny character came to America during the 1700s when Pennsylvania started receiving German immigrants. They were believed to have brought over the Oschter Haws or Osterhase, who was a hare that laid eggs.

Legend suggests that the rabbit laid colorful eggs to gift children who had been good. Kids were known to build nests for the rabbit so that he would leave eggs for them; they would even leave some carrots out for the rabbit. 

This custom started to spread across the nation as an Easter tradition. It started to grow from just eggs to toys and chocolates too. 

5. The Butterfly

Blue Butterflies.
Blue Butterflies
Image by Stergo from Pixabay

The life cycle of the butterfly, from the birth of the caterpillar to a cocoon to a butterfly, can symbolize Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection. The caterpillar represents the early life that Jesus led as a human man.

The cocoon can depict how Jesus was killed and buried in a tomb. The last where the butterfly comes out represents the resurrection of Jesus and his victory from death. 

It is believed that on the morning of Easter, Jesus’s clothes were found lying on the slab. The corpse wasn’t found, similar to how the chrysalis is left empty by the butterfly that has flown off. 

6. Easter Candy

Easter jelly beans.
Easter jelly beans
Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

Chocolate eggs are an ubiquitous symbol of Easter. They are also actually the oldest tradition of candy that started in the 19th century in Germany. Lent also played a role in how popular Easter candy became.

Christians had to give up sweets and candy during Lent, so Easter was the first day they were allowed to consume chocolate. 

A popular Easter candy is the jelly bean. Since the 1930s, this has been associated with Easter, but it goes back to the Biblical era when Turkish Delights became popular. The National Confectioners Association has reported that more than 16 billion jelly beans are made for Easter each year.

In the 2000s, the marshmallow Peep was the most popular non-chocolate candy sold during Easter. This pastel-colored sugar confectionary started becoming popular in the 1950s after a candy manufacturer from Pennsylvania introduced them to the public.

Originally, Peeps were shaped like yellow chicks and were marshmallow flavored handmade delights. Over the years, this candy has adopted many different shapes.

Easter candy is also a common tradition for non-Christians since it can also be tied to the season of spring. Easter candy is often shaped into common springtime symbols like flowers and birds. 

7. Baby Chicks

Three baby chicks in a garden.
Three baby chicks in a garden
Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabays

As illustrated by the Peeps marshmallow candy, chicks are also a symbol of Easter. Since the birth of baby chicks is from the hatching of an egg, baby chicks have become the symbol of fertility and new life.

Hence, today, they are associated with the spring season, as well as Easter. Other baby animals like pups and cubs have also become symbols of Easter. 

8. Easter Lilies

A beautiful white Lily.
A beautiful white Lily
Philip Wels via Pixabay

White Easter Lilies are symbolic of the purity of Jesus Christ to his followers. In fact, legend has it that white lilies grew in the area where Jesus spent his last hours when he was crucified on the cross.

Numerous stories claim that a lily grew from each spot that his perspiration fell on. Hence, over the years, white Easter lilies have become a symbol of purity, as well as new life. They symbolize the promise of a never-ending life and the resurrection of Jesus.

This is why, around Easter time, you will find lots of homes and churches decorated with white lilies. 

Since these flowers grow from dormant bulbs underground, they are symbolic of rebirth as well. Lilies were introduced to England in 1777 and were native to Japan.

During World War I, they made their way into the United States. Today, white lilies have become the unofficial flower of Easter in the US.

References:

  1. https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/inspire-me/blog/articles/why-do-we-have-easter-eggs/
  2. https://www.mashed.com/819687/why-we-eat-pretzels-on-easter/
  3. https://www.thegleaner.com/story/news/2017/04/11/legend-dogwoods-easter-story/100226982/
  4. https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/holidays/easter-ideas/a31226078/easter-bunny-origins-history/
  5. http://www.trinitywestseneca.com/2017/04/the-easter-butterfly/
  6. https://www.abdallahcandies.com/information/easter-candy-history/
  7. https://www.whyeaster.com/customs/eggs.shtml
  8. https://extension.unr.edu/publication.aspx?PubID=2140