The Origin of Easter Traditions

While we happily buy chocolate Easter bunnies, color eggs and hide them, and fill our Easter baskets, many people are unsure as to the origins of these Easter traditions. Whether you celebrate Easter as a religious holiday or the advent of Spring, or a combination of both, it can be fun to understand the origins and meanings behind these traditions, where some aspects of modern Easter celebrations even pre-date Christianity.

Easter Bunny- This iconic symbol of Easter, is found everywhere in the spring. Whether made in chocolate, or a fluffy, full-sized costume, the Easter bunny signals the arrival of Easter. Hares and rabbits have long been symbols of fertility, so they have easily become associated with the renewal of life after a long winter. The inclusion of the haare into Easter customs appears to have originated in Germany. It was here where tales were told of an "Easter hare", who laid eggs for children to find, seemed to have originated. German immigrants who came to America (particularly Pennsylvania), were the ones who greeted the tradition with them, and spread it to a wider public. These early settlers also baked cakes for Easter in the shape of hares, and may have pioneered the practice of making chocolate bunnies and eggs.

Easter Eggs- Next to the Easter bunny, the next recognizable symbol of the holiday must be Easter eggs. Historical records show that eggs have been viewed as symbols of new life and fertility through the ages. It is also believed that for this reason, many ancient cultures used eggs during their spring festivals. It is noted that eggs became part of the Easter celebration because they were hidden during Lent. The eggs that were laid during that time were often boiled, or otherwise preserved. Because of these eggs were a mainstay of Easter meals, and a prized Easter gift for children and servants. There are many different traditions and practices that have formed around Easter eggs. Eggs are also used in various holiday games. These games include: an egg hunt (generally parents hide eggs for children to find), and egg rolls (rolling eggs down a hill for prizes). These traditions live on in modern-day Easter egg hunts, and egg rolls. The most famous egg roll takes place on the White House lawn every year. Different cultures have also used Easter eggs to symbolize various aspects of their beliefs. Orthodox Christians in the Middle East and in Greece, paint eggs bright red to symbolize the blood of Christ. In Armenia, hollow eggs (created by piercing the shell with a needle and blowing out the contents) are decorated with pictures of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and other religious figures. The traditions surrounding Easter eggs are as varied as the cultures that celebrate Easter.

Easter Cards- Easter cards were first designed in Victorian England, when a stationer added a greeting to a drawing of a rabbit. The cards exploded in popularity as a way for people to send Easter greetings. According to major card manufacturers, Easter is now the fourth most popular holiday for sending cards, behind Christmas, Valentine's Day, and Mother's Day.

Easter Parades- You may be surprised to learn that this tradition has long-standing origins. Early Christians wore white robes, all through Easter week, after their baptisms. This was meant to indicate their new lives. Those people had already been baptized worn new clothes instead to symbolize their sharing a new life with Christ. In Medieval Europe, churchgoers would take a walk after Easter Mass. This Easter "parade" was led by a crucifix, or the Easter candle. Today in many places around the world, these walks endure as Easter Parades.

Source by Beverly Frank

Ok, that was quite a party. Carnival Panama 2010! What a blast! I am still picking the confetti out of my teeth. And will be pulling it out of my hair for the next 2 weeks.

If you have never been to Carnival in Panama, you have no idea of what you are missing.

Panama Carnival is not as big as the one in Brazil. But it is still the biggest party of the year. In a country known for its partying. And Carnival 2010 did not disappoint!

After the formalities of walking through the gate, showing your ID and being frisked. You are immediately shoved into a new world.

A world where everyone is singing and dancing. And throwing confetti. A little more unpleasant is this shaving cream concoction that is being sprayed into your face. I don't know what it is, but is smells just like shaving cream. It must not be, because getting it into your eyes, which seems to be the objective, doesn't burn like you would expect.

Every where you look, people are having a great time. The age range goes from newborn babies up to the extremely old. And everything in between.

The thing that stuck out, was that every one was having fun. And everything was done in fun. I admit, we didn't stay all night, and people were drinking pretty heavily. So, I do see how some fights would break out later into the evening.

It's probably not the best idea to toss a fist full of confetti into the open mouth of some drunk guy. But overall, everyone was OK and taking it all in stride.

Kids would toss confetti and it would break out into a confetti fight. With kids who don't know each other chasing each other around laughing and playing. In our case, it was kids from across the world. Mixing and playing like they were friends for years. Even though they don't speak the same language.

It is something that has to be seen to be appreciated.

And the food. Oh man, the smell of the food. I heard it called monkey on a stick. It smells so amazing on the barbeques that were spread out along the 3 mile long carnival route.

Ok, it's probably not actually monkey on a stick. It is actually meat on at stick. What the meat actually is though, is a little more uncertain. Most likely it is pork or beef. But its kind of unclear.

Music is blaring from every corner. In most cases, it was great music. But, in a few places, it was so loud the speakers distorted into a sound that was a mix of sounds you would hear from demons in hell.

For the most part, it was a very family friendly affair, at least early in the evening. At one point, we were entertained with a transvestite giving a mock lap dance to a man he pulled out of the audience. Not really something for the faint of heart, but interesting no less. Definitely not something you would see in politically correct US or Canada. But here in Panama, kids and adults watched and laughed, as it was all in fun.

The first time you go to Carnival, it is very hard to know what to expect. But it is not something to be afraid of.

Make sure you are prepared and careful. Watch out for pick pockets. If you are adventurous enough to eat the street food, make sure you have the vendor cook it very, very well. To a temperature that will kill anything. Because you don't know exactly what is in (or on) it.

And follow it up with a beer or three. Hopefully the alcohol will kill anything left over. And then I guess, hope for the best.

The biggest piece of advice I can give you, is close your mouth and cover your beer. They will get full of confetti otherwise. We are not talking about a little bit here. They are both going to be full.

No matter what your age, Carnival in Panama is something you need to see. The sites, the sounds and the smells are like no other.

It's a good time for all. Kids play, adults dance and everyone is out to have a good time. Most items seem to cost a dollar. Except the bathrooms, those cost 30 cents. And the beer is only $0.39! Does it get any better than that?

Add Carnival Panama to your list of things of things to do before you die.

It's an experience you will tell your kids and grandkids about.

The world is a very big place. But in some ways it is also very small. We are all just looking for a good time. And when we are having that good time, it doesn't matter the language you speak, a smile is universal.

Source by Glen Kowalski