Know It All: Easter
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Behind the Bunny1 of 16
By Julie Fishman
Easter is just a hop, skip and a jump away, and the readily available Peeps, jellybeans and Cadbury eggs are already teasing your sweet tooth. Prepare for the bunny-filled bliss by reading the who, what, when, where and why behind popular Easter traditions.
Moon's Mandate2 of 16
Easter is called a "moveable feast" because the date on which the holiday falls changes each year based on the lunar calendar. While the celebration can hit anytime between March 22 and April 25, landing on the former is rare: The last time Easter fell on that day was 1818, and the next time will be 2285. The most common day is April 19, on which the holiday falls about 4 percent of the time.
Humungous Hunts3 of 16
The largest Easter egg hunt to date was in 2007, when 10,000 people searched for half a million eggs at a theme park in Winter Haven, Fla. Luxe jeweler Fabergé aims to beat the participation record this year with a massive 40-day hunt in London, where the company has hidden 209 oversize eggs throughout the city. Texting the unique code found on each egg enters contestants to win £100,000 (roughly $160,000).
Steering Clear4 of 16
For the past four years, amateur statistician Stephen Smith has been using Twitter to track the most popular items people give up for Lent. Abstaining from Twitter and Facebook were both in the top ten this year, alongside chocolate, swearing and alcohol. While tiger-blooded Charlie Sheen topped the 2011 list, no celebrities made the top 100 in 2012.
The Egg Axiom5 of 16
Eggs have long been associated with birth and fertility. Their abundance at Easter symbolizes the renewal of both a religious savior and the natural world. In addition, several Christian sects used to forbid (and some still do) eating eggs during Lent. After spending over a month egg-free, observers celebrated by eating the no-longer-forbidden food.
Hare Apparent6 of 16
According to German folklore, a white hare would leave baskets filled with goodies in the homes of well-behaved children the night before Easter. When German settlers arrived in Pennsylvania in the 18th century, they brought the story of the mythological hare with them. Eventually the hare became a cuter, more commercialized bunny.
Paint the Town7 of 16
In ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt and Persia, painted eggs were used in spring festivals and exchanged as gifts. Europeans absorbed the decorating tradition and applied it not just to the start of spring but also to Easter. In many areas of Europe, observers dye eggs red to represent the blood of Christ or green to symbolize nature’s rebirth.
Be in a Bonnet8 of 16
Bonnets were all the rage among early American women. Having denied themselves luxuries during Lent, many gals bought a new bonnet Easter morning to wear for the day’s celebrations. The bonnet-buying custom stems from a larger 16th century tradition of a wardrobe renewal in conjunction with the earth’s renewal.
Basket Case9 of 16
Initially, legend held that children were to create hidden nests in their home out of their bonnets or other hats for the Easter Bunny to find and leave eggs in. Over time the bonnets became baskets—perhaps for more space and easier handling—and in addition to eggs, candy and gifts became commonplace items.
The Hunt Is On10 of 16
Kids in the Middle Ages believed that the Easter Bunny laid eggs in the fields, in addition to putting them in baskets. On Easter Day kids would race to the grass to find the food they’d been forgoing over Lent. As the lure of actual eggs dulled, parents began hiding candy-filled and chocolate eggs as well.
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Ham It Up11 of 16
The recreation of the Last Supper likely didn’t feature ham but rather lamb, as was the tradition at feasts throughout most of Europe. However, in Northern Europe and North America, pig has always been an important, more economically friendly resource. Pigs slaughtered in the winter were salted, smoked and ready to eat right around Easter time, before nearly all other fresh meats were readily available.
On a Roll12 of 16
Likely a relic of medieval Europe, the first White House Easter Egg Roll occurred during the presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes in 1878. Since then children have gathered at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue on the Monday following Easter to push decorated hard-boiled eggs across the White House Lawn with a spoon.
In a Name13 of 16
English is one of the few languages that use the word “Easter,” from the name of an Anglo-Saxon fertility goddess, to describe the resurrection holiday. Most other languages derive their name for the holiday from Pesach, the Hebrew word for Passover, a Jewish holiday that’s also celebrated in the spring and inspired much of the symbolism used in Easter.
Sweet Sensation14 of 16
After Halloween, Easter is the next-best-selling candy holiday. Hot cross buns were the original Easter treat—the iced crosses likely represented the Crucifixion. Chocolate eggs entered the picture in the early 1800s; jellybeans followed in the 1930s; and Peeps hit the scene in the 1950s. Chocolate reigns as king: 90 million chocolate bunnies are created in the U.S. each Easter.
Crème de la Crème15 of 16
While Cadbury introduced filled eggs in the 1920s, the creme egg in its current form emerged in the early '70s. Filled with mainly white but also yellow fondant made from egg, thick cream, sugars and other additives, the American and Canadian creme eggs have decreased in size over the years, while the UK version stays true to the initial specifications.
Parading About16 of 16
The first Easter parade in America dates to the mid-19th century. After attending services at various Fifth Avenue churches, wealthy New Yorkers would stroll the streets showing off their fancy holiday attire. Over time, the NY parade expanded to include all people, regardless of income. Similar celebrations began to pop up in cities throughout the country.
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