I confess to having a very deep-seated disdain for easter egg hunts. When I was a child, my parents took me to an easter egg hunt at our local country club. My mother made a beautiful blue egg, just for me, complete with my name on it. I was so proud of this egg! When we got to the hunt, I was shocked and dismayed to discover that we were to surrender all of our eggs to the folks running the hunt, who would then take them and hide them for everyone to hunt for. I tried to explain that the blue egg with my name on it was not to be hidden, but it didn’t matter. It is a rare adult who will listen to a three year old child.
So, my prized egg was hidden, and another little girl found it, and no matter what I said or did, she would not relinquish my egg. I was absolutely devastated, and have hated easter egg hunts ever since. But never once did I wonder why, for the purpose of celebrating Jesus’ resurrection from the dead on Easter Sunday, we colored eggs and then hid them! As an adult, I have wondered about this many times, and been asked about it, by non-Christians, as well.
I read a really sweet and simple explanation for this that I thought I would share. In fact, there are several curious Holy Week customs that I would like to share, that I found in this week’s online edition of Our Sunday Visitor:
Palm crosses: From medieval times, people have believed that blessed palms formed into the shape of a cross would protect them from danger. The easiest way to make a cross from blessed palms is to cut two pieces of the palm, arrange in the shape of a cross, put a thumbtack in the middle, and attach the cross to a doorway or a bulletin board. Check the Internet for directions on how to braid or weave palms into more decorative crosses.
Housecleaning: In many cultures the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week are designated as days for vigorous housecleaning in preparation for Easter. This custom probably evolved from the Jewish custom of ritual cleaning before Passover.
Coloring eggs: Decorating eggs was a pagan symbol of rebirth at springtime for the Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, Persians and even the Chinese. Christians adopted the colored egg as a symbol of new life which comes with the Resurrection.
Easter lilies: The tradition of buying Easter lilies during Holy Week for use as decorations in homes and churches came into practice in the 1800s. The white flower is a symbol of purity and new life that heralds the resurrection of Jesus.
Visiting churches: The custom of visiting several churches to say a prayer on Holy Thursday was a tradition that evolved from the practice of making pilgrimages to holy places.
Sweet breads: In many cultures, Holy Week was traditionally a time for baking sweet breads, cakes and pastries that would be served on Easter Sunday.
Blessing of Easter baskets: In many cultures, families bring food that will be eaten on Easter Sunday to church in a basket for a special blessing on Holy Saturday.
New clothes: From the time of the early Christians, the newly baptized wore white garments made from new linen. In medieval times, it became a tradition for people to wear new clothes on Easter Sunday, symbolizing the “new life” that comes with the Resurrection. In some places it was believed that bad luck would come to those who could afford new Easter clothes but refused to buy them.
Holy Water blessings: Some families bring holy water containers to Mass on Easter so they can bring home some Easter water, which is blessed during the Easter Vigil, to bless their homes.
Our family actually celebrates most of these customs! I think it is the traditions and rituals that make this season so meaningful, at least for me. And while I still don’t care for easter egg hunts, I do still love beautifully decorated eggs! I am absolutely fascinated by the famous Fabergé eggs that were created for the Russian Royalty. And of course I love the intricate and delicately painted Polish Pisanki!! One of my prized possessions is a beautiful black egg, embellished with gold and pearl, that opens up to reveal a tiny jewelry box. It plays music, as well!