Easter Sunday is an important event and festival for Christianity in all denominations. Historically, it is the day when Jesus was resurrected after His crucifixion on Friday. It stands as a symbol of obliterating the darkness of evil from the world. Easter symbols and traditions have developed with time, though many have existed throughout for centuries. Easter however is the day most inter-weaved with ritual and pagan symbolism. Easter is one of the major days on the Christian calendar, celebrated in most countries. This day is filled with a lot of recognized symbols, digging deep into their meaning can be a source of learning and a better understanding of the value of this day. Some are discussed below
The first image that comes to mind on thinking of Easter is ‘Easter Bunny’. The Bunny is mostly seen with eggs. The obvious reason for this association is fertility. As Easter comes during spring that acknowledges new life. This is an Egyptian symbol of fertility. So the animal-like hare that produces many offspring is easy to relate to. Burrow and hare are also interconnected. Jesus coming out of the tomb is well defined as a rabbit coming out of its burrow. Rabbit is also associated with Virgin Mary which widely appears in medieval art. Like Santa Claus, Bunny is also a source of fun for the kids. Hare also stands for the moon as the date of Easter depends on the moon.
The oval-shaped eggs are the universal symbol of rebirth, fertility, and new life. These eggs are related to pagan festivals of spring. These eggs also represent the emergence of Jesus from the tomb. Painting and decorating eggs stand for the tradition that eggs were forbidden in fasting and allowed to eat on Easter as a celebration. Easter egg hunts and egg rolling traditional games are also associated with this symbol. Early Christians included the egg in the Easter celebrations, in the start, they presented eggs in churches and used them to sprinkle along holy water. Later they were painted and decorated with gold leaves and presented to the royal family as an Easter gift.
Lamb is one of the main symbols for Easter. Lamb is born in the spring season and it stands for Jesus’ sacrifice. Jesus sacrificed His life for the sake of humanity. We can find its roots in Jewish Passover, where every family sacrificed a lamb to prove their faith in God. This tradition was continued by the Jews who converted to Christianity. Jesus was called “The Lamb of God as per the following verse in The Bible, “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Most Christians eat lamb in remembrance of this sacrifice. It also stands for the purity and goodness of Jesus.
Christ was welcomed in Jerusalem by the people, who gathered in great crowed, waving palm branches at him. This day is also known as the ‘First Palm Sunday’. These leaves stand for integrity, triumph, eternal, and victory. Palm Sunday is celebrated a week before Easter and it helps to remind the real meaning of Easter. ‘Alleluia, How the people cheer and Palm Leaves rustle as the king draws near” (Gospel of John). People carry palm leaves as they walk into church and some fold them like little crosses.
Dogwood is also considered an important adoption for Easter. It is believed that the cross on which Christ was crucified was of Dogwood Tree. The blooming season of Dogwood is spring near Easter. The four petals of its flower have four petals that represent the cross that Jesus bore. This four-petal flower has marks on its edges that signify the nails that were used to crucify Jesus. The middle part of the flower looks like a crown that represents Jesus’ thorn crown, the wood is strong and sturdy representing the belief of Jesus in God and lastly, the red color of its berries stands for Jesus’ blood. No doubt that the unique legend of this tree has been passed on from generations for the remembrance of Easter.
Hot Cross Buns
Hot Cross Buns are also considered one of the favorite items and symbols for Easter. The buns are baked in a square shape and served with the icing in a cross shape on its top for the remembrance of Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross. They are widely eaten over the Easter religious holiday. The origin is from the 14th century when an Anglican monk baked the buns in a cross shape in the honor of Good Friday. The spices in these buns represent the spices used to embalm Jesus. The orange peel of these buns reflects the harshness and bitterness of Jesus’ time.
Easter Parades are also part of Easter traditions. These Parades were started by the elite class of society who amble around the streets and roads in new dresses after their presence in churches on Easter morning. The popularity of this Parade heightened in the 20th century after the Civil War and is widely known as Easter Parade. People wear bright and colorful clothes and hats at this Parade. These new clothes and parade represent the spiritual renewal. Streets and churches are also decorated with flowers, with time this parade has become more and more colorful, vibrant, and extravagant.
Easter Lilies and Flowers
Lilies are one of the major symbols of Easter. Many times this symbol is mentioned in Bible that stands for rebirth, hope, beginning, and purity. According to the following verse most often it is associated with the resurrection of Christ, “Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these” (Luke 12:27). Lilies are offered to mothers as a symbol of regard and respect. It is said that these flowers were found in the garden of Gethsemane; the place where Jesus prayed a night before the crucifixion. The life cycle of this flower embodies Christ’s resurrection as a metaphor. Lilies grow from bulbs that are buried in the soil to bloom. The connection between the bulb and resurrection is vivid to understand the uplifting connection between Christ and Easter Lilies.
The Butterfly is also one of the major symbols of Easter. The whole life cycle of the butterfly can be seen symbolically. The first phase of the caterpillar can be compared to Jesus when he walked on earth. He had faced many hardships yet he continued his struggle for mankind. The cocoon represents the crucifixion of Christ and his burial. The appearance of the butterfly can be compared to Jesus when he came out of the tomb after the resurrection with a new glorified body. This close resemblance makes the butterfly a powerful symbol of Easter.
Bonfires and candles
Both bonfires and candles stand for the light dominating the darkness and the resurrection of Christ. They indicate the cleaning of sins and aspiration or hope for new life. On this very day, priests light up the candles in church to spread the light of Christ’s teachings. Families arrange bonfire parties that represent the light coming to the world through Jesus. The flames of candles and bonfires represent the rebirth of Christ and the warmth of his teachings.