Since we were children, Easter has been a holiday defined by family, great food, egg hunts, more candy than the heart could ever desire and, if you attended church, the best Sunday gear in town. However, many of the traditions that we associate with Easter — down to dressing up for the holiday — have historic origins.
If you are among the estimated 79% of Americans who celebrate Easter (or even if you’re not), check out these fun facts about the holiday. Some might even surprise you.
Just like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny was introduced to American culture through stories told by early immigrant settlers. According to History.com, the Easter Bunny made his first appearance in the 18th century when German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania told the story of an “egg-laying hare” named “Osterhase” or “Oschter Haws.”
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Easter baskets are a staple of the holiday, but this wasn’t always true. Children originally made nests for the hare to lay his colorful eggs. As the Easter Bunny tradition began to spread across the U.S., the Easter Bunny’s list of treats expanded to include candy, chocolate and gifts. In turn, nests were replaced by baskets.
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Leaving goods for a fictional gift-giver is a tradition most associated with Santa Claus and Christmas. But the same was once true for the Easter Bunny. In addition to making nests for the “Osterhase” to leave his eggs, children would leave carrots for the bunny in case he was hungry.
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The Easter Bunny is the most popular fictional animal associated with the Easter holiday, but he’s not the only one. In Switzerland, a cuckoo brings Easter eggs, and before the Easter Bunny rose to prominence, it was believed that a fox laid the eggs that were given to children in Germany.
There are many theories explaining how Easter got its name. One suggests that a monk named Venerable Bede read about a goddess named Eostre while attempting to choose the rightful day Christians should celebrate the resurrection of Christ. Eostre represented spring and fertility, and pagans were known for celebrating her during a month called Eosturmonath. Another theory suggests that the name derives from an old German word meaning “east,” signifying the birth of a new day since the sun rises in the east.
According to History.com, although Easter is a religious holiday, the origin of Easter eggs likely stems from paganism. During festivals celebrating spring’s arrival, the egg was a symbol of new life. However, in Christianity, the egg is believed to represent the emergence and resurrection of Jesus.
Today, decorating Easter eggs is a tradition in many households because it unites the entire family for a fun, crafty activity. But the origin of Easter egg decorating is believed to date as far back as the 13th century. During Lent, a religious holiday, congregations were told to abstain from eating eggs. At the end of the season, people would paint the eggs to mark the end of fasting and penance before eating them.
Every year on Easter Sunday, New Yorkers stroll down Fifth Avenue wearing their best gear in a celebration known as the Easter Parade. The history of the parade can be traced back to post-Civil War days when wealthy East Coasters would exit their Easter church services on Fifth Avenue and stroll down the streets to show off the latest fashion trends. Extravagant hats and bonnets were often worn, and designers would line the streets to sketch the elaborate outfits worn for department stores to mimic in production.
Halloween might be the holiday most associated with the distribution of candy, but Easter is close behind. According to History.com, Easter is the second best-selling candy holiday in America. Approximately $2.5 billion was estimated to be spent on Easter candy in 2019.
Other than loads of chocolate, there’s one sweet treat you’re bound to find in many Easter baskets: jelly beans. And there’s a reason why. According to the National Confectioners Association, jelly beans became an Easter tradition in the 1930s because of their egg-like shape. It was believed that the Easter bunny would deliver jelly beans along with eggs because of their similarities. Ninety years later, jelly beans remain an Easter favorite — so much so that each year, more than 16 billion jelly beans are made for the holiday.
Plenty of sweets are handed out during the Easter season — 92% of Americans said they would include chocolate and candy in their baskets in 2019 — but America’s favorite Easter treat is chocolate. According to the National Confectioners Association, 55% of Americans said chocolate eggs and chocolate bunnies — an Easter candy tradition — are their favorite Easter candy. Chocolate easter eggs were first made popular in France and Germany in the early 19th century.
Studies have proven that eating dark chocolate every day has numerous health benefits, but attempting to eat the largest chocolate Easter egg might be the exception to the rule. According to Guinness World Records, in 2011, one chocolatier in Tosca, Italy, created the largest chocolate Easter egg ever. The egg weighed more than 15,000 pounds and had a circumference of more than 64 feet.
Peeps, the sweet-tasting animal-shaped marshmallows that debuted in 1953, were the top-selling non-chocolate Easter candy this past decade. According to WalletHub, more than 1.5 billion of the tiny treats are eaten each Easter season.
Each year, hundreds of children are selected by lottery to participate in the White House Easter Egg Roll, an event where decorated hard-boiled eggs are rolled across the White House lawn. The first celebration dates back to 1878 when a group of children asked to play egg-rolling games at the White House. President Rutherford B. Hayes agreed to allow the festivities, and the rest is history.
Americans are willing to splurge when it comes to celebrating the Easter holiday. According to a 2019 survey completed by the National Retail Federation, the average American was expected to spend more than $151 on Easter, and the total expected spending was $18.11 billion. Instead of exceeding your budget on Easter, why not save some money to take an amazing family trip to the best spring vacation destinations in every state.
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