Egg hunting is a traditional Easter activity that entails either large or small parties of children and/or adults who search areas indoors and outside for chocolate eggs that have been hidden for them on Easter Sunday. Children believe that the Easter bunny has hidden the eggs for them to find. When the hunt is over, the children keep the eggs that they found, however, if the event is organised by friends or family and includes children, hosts will gather all the eggs together to share them equally amongst all participants to make it fair.
The giving and receiving of eggs at Easter time is usually observed by parents and grandparents who give chocolate gifts to the children in their family. Sometimes they are given as gifts however, many people hold egg-hunting parties (a fun activity for children to take part in). I have often wondered about the origins of this, so I decided to some internet searching to see if I could find answers. What I found was a lot of opposing information according to different religions, cultures and folklore, however they shared a lot of the same themes that I found extremely interesting. An interesting symmetry to point out was surrounding the egg itself. This is a symbol of spring according to folklore but is also used by Christians as a symbol of the resurrection.
There are also a number of opposing theories about the origins of the egg hunt. The most interesting ones that I found were:
- The event is a derivative of the old German tradition of Osterhase. The tradition saw German children leaving nests outside of the houses so that a magic hare could lay eggs in it for them. It is thought that it travelled with German immigrants to America where it evolved into the egg hunt that we know of today.
- I found a rather more disturbing collection of stories surrounding the rise of the Christian faith over Paganism. The stories had opposing accounts, some implicating Christian’s as persecutors and others implicating Pagan's. Either way, the story suggests that the victimized party were found when they practiced the Easter celebration of exchanging eggs. They hid this because of the discrimination that they received (remember I read opposing stories implicating both parties) for practicing the rituals of their religion. They began exchanging eggs in secret by burying them for their loved ones to find. Their tormentors discovered and devised a plan that included bribing children to search for buried eggs around land or properties of those suspected of practicing. When eggs were found, the owner of the land or the person that lived in the property would then be subject to bullying and persecution for their actions.
In todays world we carry out this wonderful tradition along with many other new and old traditions, such as sending Easter e cards, unaware of the possible origins. Which of these will be carried forward with us into the future and what will they evolve into?