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A Guide To Explaining Easter To Kids

As sweet as the Easter Bunny is, there is more to the holiday for many.

by Jessica Booth
Originally Published: 

Although Easter is thought of as the holiest day of the year for Christians, that isn’t immediately apparent if you don’t know the history of the holiday. For little kids, Easter is often thought of as a day the Easter Bunny comes hopping on by, leaving a trail of candy-filled eggs for them to find, as well as a basket stuffed with goodies. It’s easy for kids, especially those who don’t come from a very religious background, to assume that Easter is basically like spring’s version of Christmas. Whether your child has already been exposed to the religious meaning of Easter or not, here’s a guide to explaining the history and meaning of Easter (and the Easter Bunny) to a child.

When is Easter and why does the date keep changing?

Easter always falls on a Sunday in the springtime (in 2024, it falls on March 31), but the actual date changes every year. In the Gregorian calendar, Easter is always going to be observed on a Sunday between the dates of March 22 and April 25.

A lot of people don’t realize that the moon determines the day Easter Sunday falls on. The Easter holiday will always fall on the first Sunday after the Paschal Full Moon, which is the first Sunday following the full moon that happens on or before the Spring Equinox. One note to confuse things slightly: the Catholic church considers March 21 to be the Spring Equinox every year, even when the astronomical date of the Spring Equinox shifts (for example, in 2024, it’s March 19).

Basically, you can explain that it occurs in this order: The Spring Equinox happens first, then the next full moon, and the first Sunday after that is Easter.

Also, keep in mind that eastern Orthodox churches base the date of Easter on the Julian calendar rather than the Gregorian calendar. That’s why Orthodox Easter is usually celebrated at a later date for Protestants and Roman Catholics. According to Orthodox tradition, Easter cannot be celebrated before or at the same time as Passover.

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What is Easter and why do people celebrate it?

To Christians, Easter is recognized as the holiest day of the year, and it happens to be one of the happiest celebrations.The holiday commemorates the day that Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead three days after his death by crucifixion. It goes without saying that Jesus actually coming back from the dead was the most important moment in the history of Christianity. It’s the foundation of Christian faith and the religion would not be the same without that moment. When Jesus rose from the dead, he showed that he can conquer death, and that’s what made him more than just another prophet. His resurrection is what gives eternal life to all of his believers and what cemented everything Christian faith was based on.

Easter is also the conclusion of Lent, which is 40 days dedicated to fasting, penance, and prayer. The week before Easter Sunday is called Holy Week, made up of other extremely important moments in Christian history. There’s Maundy Thursday (this commemorates Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples), Good Friday (the day he was crucified), and Holy Saturday (the day he was thought to be dead). Basically, Easter happens at the end of a long period of tough times, and that’s why it’s considered to be a happy, joy-filled holiday.

How do people celebrate Easter?

There are two basic ways to celebrate the actual holiday. Many people ignore all the religious aspects of Easter and just celebrate the secular traditions: egg hunts, egg dyeing, the Easter Bunny, Easter baskets, etc. People who are more religious follow more of the Christian traditions (going to mass), and may take part in both kinds of celebration. Most people celebrate on Easter Sunday by having Easter dinner (or brunch or lunch) with family. But even non-religious celebrations still have ties to the religious beliefs that make Easter what it is.

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Religious traditions for Easter include:

  • Lent: Lent starts 40 days before Easter Sunday and is a time of reflection and penance. Many religious people use it as a way to feel closer to God. There are holy days during Lent, like Palm Sunday. Some people choose to give up something they love for the 40 days of Lent (which represents some of Jesus’ suffering), and some people fast on certain days (or just give up eating meat every Friday).
  • Holy Week: Holy Week consists of Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. In general, mass is only held on Sundays, but during Holy Week, there can be a mass for all of these noteworthy days.
  • Attending mass: Attending church services is considered extremely important for all of Lent, and especially Easter Sunday. Mass is usually longer during Holy Week and on Easter Sunday, as there is a lot to go over and celebrate.

Secular traditions for Easter include:

  • The Easter Bunny: You probably wouldn’t be surprised to hear that the Easter Bunny does not make an appearance in the Bible. Sources say that the Easter Bunny became a thing in America in the 1700s thanks to German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania. Their tradition of an egg-laying rabbit called “Osterhase” had children making nests for the rabbit to lay its colored eggs. This eventually evolved into the idea of the Easter Bunny.
  • Easter eggs: No, Jesus did not dye eggs fun colors before his death or resurrection, although this tradition does date back to the 13th century. Easter eggs are linked to pagan traditions, since the egg (which symbolizes new life) is associated with pagan spring festivals. Easter eggs can represent Jesus’ resurrection. There’s a theory that people started coloring them because they couldn’t eat them during Lent, so they decorated them at the end of the season as a celebration.
  • Easter candy: Chocolate and Easter go hand-in-hand, a tradition that dates back to the early 19th century in Europe. The first chocolate Easter egg was made in the early 19th century in France and Germany, and it opened the door for many other kinds of Easter-themed candy to follow.
  • Egg rolling: Have you ever wondered why people spend Easter Sunday celebrations rolling eggs around? It may symbolize the rolling of the rock away from the tomb that held the body of Jesus. It dates back to at least 1872.
  • Eating lamb: Lamb is traditionally served during Easter dinner. Lambs have some significance in Christianity: Jesus was called the “Lamb of God.”
  • Easter lilies (and other flowers): Lilies are basically a symbol of Easter. Since they grow into flowers from dormant bulbs in the ground, they symbolize the rebirth of Christ.

Is the Easter Bunny real?

Feel free to keep this information from your kids until they reach a certain age, but no, the Easter Bunny is not real. As mentioned before, the Easter Bunny is really an American tradition. It came from the German tradition of the “Osterhase,” a hare that laid colored eggs. When German immigrants came to the U.S. in the 1700s, children celebrated the Osterhase by making nests for the hare to lay its eggs. This eventually turned into people celebrating the Easter Bunny. And, at some point, that Easter Bunny brought gifts and candy along with him (honestly, this was probably just about making money).

Where to watch Easter shows for kids

One way to get your little ones interested in the real story behind the holiday is to have them watch movies or TV shows about Easter. There are several kid favorites that have Easter episodes in their lineup, including Bluey, PAW Patrol, and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.

The way your family celebrates Easter might be different than what is considered traditional – and that’s totally OK. Explain Easter to your kids so that they know and understand the history of this very religious and holy holiday, but also explain more current traditions and celebrations so that they get those, too. And there’s no harm in eating some chocolate eggs while doing so.

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