Each year in Jerusalem, pilgrims from around the world gather at the site where Christians believe Jesus was buried and to pray for peace. Each year, millions of children across the country rise in anticipation of a great Easter egg hunt as families prepare for one of the most celebrated religious traditions in America.
When youths in Bradley and other counties were asked about their personal thoughts on Easter, the answers were varied, loaded with curiosity and often surprising.
Trevor Young, a second-grade student at Yates Primary, wrote, “What Easter means to me is that Jesus died for our sins. I think it is awesome and so cool that Jesus rose from the dead. They put him in a tomb. They nailed his hands and feet to a dogwood tree.”
Holly Salaicen and her young daughter June were with Cameron Hardwick at Bradley Square Mall recently. They had just seen the 5-foot bunny rabbit posing for pictures with small children at the mall entrance.
Cameron said he is looking forward to Easter and an Easter egg hunt, calling the entire occasion “amazing!”
While the 6-year-old was excited at the sight of a huge, playful rabbit dressed in a vest and tie, he said he would like to know what the bunny rabbit has to do with Jesus. Other students from Yates Primary shared their thoughts on the celebration.
Tanequa Blair wrote, “Easter is when Jesus Christ rose from the dead. People didn’t believe a lady because she said that Jesus rose from the tomb. Jesus told her to tell them. She told some men. They laughed, but one person believed. Then everybody believed her because Jesus showed himself.”
Cole McGinnis wrote, “To me, Easter means that Jesus rose from the grave and went to heaven. Now he is raising people from the grave to heaven like he rose when he was dead. We should be thankful for him rising from the dead.”
Elliott Brock wrote, “I think Easter means that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. Jesus wants me to love him with all my heart. We say John 3:16 — Christ Jesus our Lord. The reason he wants us is because he first loved us. Then he rose on the third day. Jesus will guide you wherever you go. Where you go he will love you even if you die.”
Some students from Yates elaborated on the family fun associated with the special occasion.
Matthew Peterson wrote, “Easter means that Jesus rose from the tomb he was put in after he died on the cross. It means to me that kids get to have a good time finding hidden eggs all around. I get to go to my Nana’s and have an Easter egg hunt inside.”
Nicholas Lovett wrote, “Easter means family to me. I’m excited about Easter because I get to go to my aunt’s house.”
Brenden Gates wrote, “Every Easter night I go to bed and in the morning I wake up and see a basket of goodies and chocolate. The Easter bunny visited me while I was sleeping. On Easter day my family goes to my Meme’s house and we hunt for Easter eggs.”
Emma Tolbert wrote, “Easter is a special day not because of eggs but because of God. Think about God tonight and say a prayer and he’ll respond.”
Ten-year-old Clara Kirksey from Monroe County, said, “Easter is a very important holiday to me. We celebrate the day Jesus rose from the dead. A lot of people didn’t believe that Jesus had really rose from the dead when Mary came rushing in the town to tell everybody the good news. I believe that He really rose and forgave everybody’s sins.
“On Easter Sunday my family gets up happily and I always have an Easter basket sitting on my night stand when I get up. My sister and I put on our pretty Easter dresses while my brother gets into his Easter suit. Then we all head out to church.
“Then we go to my grandparent’s house for a Easter dinner. My dad says the prayer, and then we all begin to eat. My favorite part about Easter is getting together with my family and saying the prayer.
“We have an Easter egg hunt at my grandparent’s house and a few days before Easter we color some real eggs in Easter colors. I thank God that he sent His Son to die for me and that He forgave all of my sins.”
Coleman Gregory, 10, a fifth-grade student at Taylor Elementary, said, “Easter, to me is a time to get together and celebrate the day Jesus rose from the grave. Every year on Easter we wake up, go to church, have an Easter egg hunt then go home.
“We always go to my grandparents house after church, then we have another egg hunt, then comes my favorite part of Easter. After the egg hunts and the candy eating, we have our Easter dinner. But, the dinner isn’t my favorite part, the blessing we say before we eat is my favorite part of Easter.
“In our blessing we thank God for all He’s done for us and we thank Him for sacrificing his son. We also thank Jesus for rising from the tomb. That’s my favorite part of Easter.”
Other elementary school students in Meigs and McMinn county, who believe in Jesus but do not celebrate Easter, were more curious about the origin of the popular customs related to the celebration.
Veronica Rathbun, 11, stated, “I don’t know what eggs and bunny rabbits have to do with Jesus’ resurrection.”
Her 9-year-old sister Amber also raised the question, “What does the chicken, the egg and the rabbit have to do with Jesus’ death?”
Tyler Swanson, 9, said, “I was wondering what does Jesus’ ransom and resurrection have to do with chicks, bunnies and eggs? Who made all of that stuff?”
Tyler’s friend Trevor Dolan, 10, said, “I was wondering what does Easter have to do with the Ransom?”
Selena Hernandez, 12, said, “Whoever made Easter seems obsessed with eggs and bunnies.”
Her friend Demetria Woodard, also 12, said, “I want to know, if Easter is meant to be about Jesus and the ransom then how did the bunny and the eggs come about?”
Caleb Bradford, a 14-year-old freshman, said, “I was in school one day and I was researching a little bit on it. I didn’t quite find anything because the websites were blocked. But I think it was probably something like a pagan festival celebration when it started.”
Many people — young and old — have wondered what the Easter egg and the Easter bunny have to do with the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The Catholic Encyclopedia answers, “The custom may have its origin in paganism, for a great many pagan customs, celebrating the return of spring, gravitated to Easter. The egg is the emblem of the germinating life of early spring ... The rabbit is a pagan symbol and has always been an emblem of fertility.”
“Apparently eggs were colored red to represent the life force as early as 5000 B.C. and given as emblems of friendship during the festivals of the spring equinox,” says “The Chicken Book.”
“The Persians have also exchanged elaborately gilded and painted eggs for thousands of years. Christianity readily adopted eggs to its own symbolic uses. The shell became the symbol of the tomb from which Christ had risen.”
The Encyclopedia of Religion states, “The Easter bunny or rabbit is most likely of pre-Christain origin. The rabbit was known as an extraodinarily fertile creature, and hence it symbolized the coming of spring.”
Such a mixture of pagan customs with the resurrection of Christ puzzled many Christians as to why and how such an adoption had taken place.
Alan W. Watts, an Episcopal chaplain, in his book “Easter — It’s Story and Meaning,” explains, “When a religion such as Christianity comes to a people from outside, it adopts and ‘baptizes’ some of the folk customs which derive from older religions.”
According to the book “Curiosities of Popular Customs,” “It was the invariable policy of the early Church to give a Christian significance to such pagan ceremonies as could not be rooted out. In the case of Easter the conversion was peculiarly easy.
“Joy at the rising of the natural sun, and at the awakening of nature from the death of winter, became joy at the rising of the Sun of righteousness, at the resurrection of Christ from the grave.”
Because of its pagan connection, not all who believe in the resurrection of Christ celebrate Easter. Some cite concerns about the name itself.
The Westminster Dictionary of the Bible states Easter was “originally the spring festival in honor of the goddess of light and spring known in Anglo-Saxons as Eastre. As early as the eighth century the name was transferred to the Christian festival designated to celebrate the resurrection of Christ.”
As far as the earliest Christians and Easter were concerned, The Encyclopedia Britannica states, “There is no indication of the observance of the Easter festival in the New Testament, or in the writings of the apostolic Fathers. The sanctity of special times was an idea absent from the minds of the first Christians.”
While the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is on the minds of millions, young and old, children who also love the Lord are raising some interesting questions about Easter and proving that glory to God can come out of the mouth of babes.