Sunday, 31 March 2013

Easter Eggs, Bunnies, Hunts and Egg Rolling

In our house the Easter Bunny arrives bright and early on Easter Sunday.  Unfortunately it seems to rain each year on that day, so he likes to wait until the rain clears, then he can hide the chocolate foil-covered eggs in the garden.  This morning that was about 8am, by which time the children had been up for two hours.

Anyway, he finally arrived - I was sure I saw his tail disappear over the fence.  About three minutes later all the eggs had been discovered, and shared out evenly, as one had got more than all the others.  Our garden is quite small, and Easter bunny doesn't like to go in the pool enclosure in case he falls in.  I remember the hunt taking a lot longer when Easter Bunny had an acre to hide eggs in!

After the Hunt, 1930s
Eggs have always been a symbol of fertility, and rebirth - decorated ostrich eggs, and representations of ostrich eggs in gold and silver, were commonly placed in graves of the ancient Sumerian's and Egyptians as early as 5,000 years ago. Decorated eggs at Easter may have originated when the early Christians of Mesopotamia stained eggs red at Easter in memory of the blood of Christ shed at his crucifixion. Combine this with the fact that eggs were originally forbidden during Lent in Western Christianity, and you get a reason for using up all your eggs - decorating them and hiding them for the children, or perhaps young women hoping to have  a child   to find, makes perfect sense!

Rabbits and hares, with their large litters born at the start of spring, were also a common symbol of fertility, so it's not surprising that they entered into Easter traditions.  The Easter Bunny was first mentioned in Georg Franck von Frankenau's 'De ovis paschalibus' (About Easter Eggs) in 1682, and referred to an Alsace tradition of an Easter Hare bringing Easter Eggs. The first edible Easter bunny was made out of pastry and sugar in the early 1800's, and the bunny was said to lay colourful eggs in the nests that children made out of their hats - which of course then morphed into baskets.  The Europeans brought the German Easter Bunny traditions with them to America in the 1700's.

Easter baskets and Sunday best, 1930s
Another tradition taken to the New World was that of egg rolling , where children roll eggs down hillsides at Easter to see whose can roll the furthest   This tradition was taken up at the White house by Dolley Madison, the wife of President James Madison, in 1814, before being beng abandoned for some years until it was revived by Mamie Eisenhower during her husband's term in office, and she allowed black children to attend for the first time.  The Egg Roll tradition continues to this day, although the Egg Roll is now a race, where children push an egg through the grass with a long-handled spoon.

Egg Roll on the White House South lawn in 1929.
Just remember to crush your eggshells well once the eggs have been eaten, or a witch may come and use it for a boat.  So may the (tiny) children.

c. 1900
We keep our boiled eggs for breakfast - I cook them and the children get to decorate them before eating them. As I am very bad a dying eggs (I am good at fingers though), this works well for us.  Our chocolate eggs never last long enough to roll anywhere.

Happy Easter!  Did Easter Bunny come to your house?

Deb xxx

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