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Thursday, May 30, 2024

The origins of Easter egg hunts

When Easter rolls around, does your community or local church like to put on an Easter egg hunt for children? Have you ever wondered how this tradition became tied with the Resurrection of Jesus Christ? When did the first egg hunt occur?

Before Christianity, many societies held the belief that eggs symbolized springtime and new life. As Christianity began to spread, the first Christians began to associate the egg with the resurrection, viewing the empty shell as a symbol for Jesus’ tomb.

Medieval Christians celebrated Lent 40 days before Easter to pay homage to Jesus’ time being tempted in the wilderness. During Lent, they would abstain from eating eggs. On Easter Sunday, they would feast and celebrate being able to eat eggs again. Over time, the egg became a popular treat and gift following Lent, so much so that wealthy royals began decorating them before gifting them.

It is very possible that Easter egg hunts originated in Germany.

Some believe that they began when the Protestant reformer, Martin Luther, put on egg hunts for his church congregation. Mirroring the story of the women finding the empty tomb on Resurrection morning, the men would hide the eggs for the women and children to find. But this is only one theory of how Easter egg hunts came to be.

Another theory is that it has roots in Germanic folklore. The Pennsylvania Dutch believed in a hare named Oschter Haws that laid eggs if you made a nest for it. Children would craft nests in the hopes that this hare would leave behind eggs for them to find. Today, Oschter Haws is known as the Easter Bunny, the nests are the baskets we use to contain the eggs, and the eggs from the fable have morphed into plastic eggs containing treats or toys.