Easter, also called Pascha or Resurrection Sunday, is a Christian festival and cultural holiday commemorating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, described in the New Testament as having occurred on the third day of his burial following his crucifixion by the Romans at Calvary c. 30 AD.
Many historians believe that Christians named Easter after Eastre or Eostre, a pagan Anglo-Saxon goddess, in the hopes of encouraging conversion. Like the Christian equivalent, Eastre festivities heralded the coming of spring after winter's long slumber. Her sacred symbols are thought to have been the hare and the egg, which is why they feature prominently in Easter symbolism too.
We can thank Germany for the bunny. The idea of the Easter bunny delivering candy and eggs originated in Germany during the Middle Ages, with the first written mention of this tradition dating back to the 16th century. Dutch settlers in Pennsylvania brought the bunny to the United States in the 1700s and the rest is delicious history.
The tradition of dyeing Easter eggs is said to date back to ancient Mesopotamia. In modern times, it continues on in secular fashion as well as in Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches, where eggs are dyed red, then blessed and passed out to supplicants.
While the tradition of dyeing eggs at Easter may have begun as a religious practice, the custom of decorating those eggs comes from a Ukrainian craft dating back thousands of years. The eggs, called pysankas, are painstakingly created using wax and dyes, a process Ukrainian immigrants brought with them to the United States.
Dressing up for Easter is based on a superstition. While many might think that dressing to the nines on Easter Sunday is simply a sign of respect for the holiday, that's not the case. At least it wasn't in 19th-century New York, when residents believed that wearing new duds on Easter would bring luck for the rest of the year. These days, it's estimated that $3.3 billion is spent on Easter finery.
Although they became the first candy to be sold by weight (rather than price) back in the 1900s, it wasn't until the 1930s that people started buying jelly beans specifically for Easter. Nowadays, enough are eaten each year to circle the globe more than five times.
In 1953, it took 27 hours to make a Peep. Today, it can be done in six minutes. During Easter alone, Americans consume more than 600 million of the marshmallow treat, making it the holiday's second-most popular candy. Chocolate still ranks as number one. Ten percent of people prefer to eat them stale; three percent like their Peeps frozen.
Easter lilies are a relatively new tradition. These beautiful blooms first originated in Japan and arrived in England in the late 18th century. The United States only caught onto the trend after World War I. The transition from dormant bulbs to delicate flowers brings to mind hope and rebirth, two important themes of the Easter celebration.
The White House Easter Egg Roll tradition started in 1878. It's said that President Rutherford B. Hayes was taking a walk when children approached him asking about a possible Easter egg roll. He loved the idea and it's been one of the cutest annual White House events ever since.