Ask a Pastor
“Where did we get all the symbols and odd traditions that surround Easter? Things like Easter bunnies, baby chicks, hunting Easter eggs and candy, decorating eggs, eating ham or lamb, putting lilies in church and new Easter dresses.” -- Marissa D., Indianapolis, Ind.
Rosanne: Traditions begin because we want to remember something, so we often ritualize it in order to not forget. This is particularly true when our life is disrupted in some way. Like many traditions, those associated with Easter have often come from our immigrant forebears. It is thought that the Easter bunny comes from German immigrants in the 1700s who settled in Pennsylvania and is connected to either some real or imagined rabbit tradition from “the old country.” Other traditions were started in certain locations with a particular purpose in mind, such as the Easter Parade in New York where the elite walked around in their new finery on a lovely spring day on Fifth Avenue, or the Egg Roll on the White House lawn. But these annual events have since taken on a life of their own and perhaps even expanded. So we, in the 21st century, still carry them on as traditions even though we may not know or remember what they originally asked us to remember.
Anne: A lot of our Easter traditions are related to celebrations of spring and fertility, just like a lot of our Christmas traditions are related to celebrations of winter. Most of them aren’t particularly profound but are easy enough to connect to a theological understanding of Easter: bunnies multiply a lot — hooray for the gift of abundant new life in Christ! Personally, I don’t put a lot of emphasis on these traditions, but I don’t begrudge them, either. Some of them are really fun ways to get into the joy of Easter morning.
David: Most of the traditions you name do not come from our faith practices around the resurrection of Jesus. Instead, they are cultural traditions, related to the culture around the church.
In the Lutheran tradition, we call such things “adiaphora” which is a big word that means “indifferent” — neither commanded nor forbidden in the word of God. That is, if they help your faith and help you to celebrate Easter, then do them. But if they don’t help your faith, especially if you find them to be an impediment to your faith, then ignore them.
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