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The Month of April:

Easter, Chocolates, Peeps, and Santa Claus

Unusual Facts About the Celebration of Easter

We know that the Romans gave this month the name Aprilis, but nobody is exactly sure why. It’s possible the name April comes from the verb aperire, which means to “open.” It’s an illusion to spring, when trees and flowers begin to “open.” Get it?

For Catholics, the month of April is often the month of Easter Sunday, the day of Jesus Christ’s resurrection, when his tomb was found “opened.” See, those Romans were onto something.

According to the Gospel of John, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb where Jesus was buried and found it empty. An angel told her that Jesus had risen. Now you’re wondering, when did that happen?

Exactly When Is Easter?

Easter 2019 happens on Sunday, April 21. Last year, Easter was on April 1. Sometimes, Easter happens in late March. Confusing, isn’t it?

Easter, Ash Wednesday, and Palm Sunday, are considered “moveable feasts,” which has nothing to do with Ernest Hemingway. Come to think of it, why would Hemingway name his memoir after the Lenten season? Another mystery to research later.

According to the Bible, Jesus’ death and resurrection occurred around the time of the Jewish Passover, which was celebrated on the first Full Moon following the vernal equinox. That has led to Christians celebrating Easter on different dates. Now you know.

Easter Traditions: Eggs, Bunnies, Peeps, and Dinner

In western Christianity, the period prior to Easter Sunday holds special significance. It’s the season of Lent, which starts on Ash Wednesday and lasts for 40 days (not including Sundays.)

What also holds special significance? Easter Eggs!

We color eggs, have decorating parties, and even play games like egg rolling. But, why eggs? Well, eggs represent fertility and birth in certain pagan traditions that pre-date Christianity. Decorating eggs is our way of celebrating Jesus’ resurrection, or re-birth. It all fits.

But what’s the deal with the Easter Bunny? We tell our kids that the Easter Bunny delivers candy and chocolate eggs on Easter Sunday morning, all wrapped up inside a beautiful Easter basket.

The exact origins of the Easter Bunny tradition are unknown, although some believe it arrived in America with German immigrants in the 1700s. Rabbits are known as enthusiastic procreators, so the arrival of baby bunnies in springtime became associated with birth and renewal. There we have it again, the idea of birth and re-birth. And April.

Today, Easter is a commercial event as well as a religious holiday, with sales for cute Hallmark greeting cards, candies (Peeps, chocolate eggs, jelly beans, and chocolate Easter bunnies) and other gifts.

Our celebration isn’t all about sweets, though. We also have Easter dinner. In our house, that happened around 2 p.m., which seems more like lunch.

We always had ham, but an Easter dinner of lamb has historical roots, since a lamb was often used as a sacrificial animal in Jewish traditions, and lamb is frequently served during Passover. The phrase “lamb of God” is used to refer to Jesus and the sacrificial nature of his death. Think about that next time you’re eating a lamb chop.

How is the Easter Bunny Connected to Santa Claus?

For years, children have wondered how the Easter Bunny delivers all those Easter baskets. I mean, really, that rabbit doesn’t even have opposable thumbs.

Well, a few years ago, two young boys I know figured it out. After talking through many possible scenarios, they told their mother they had the answer. “The Easter Bunny uses Santa’s distribution system,” they said. She was impressed they correctly used the words “distribution system.”

And a few years after that, they stopped believing in Santa, a human being, but, for a few years later, kept believing in the Easter Bunny. Go figure. At least the elves kept their jobs.

 15 Things You Never Knew About Easter!

* In Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches, eggs are dyed red to represent the blood of Jesus, before being blessed and distributed to congregants.

* Most adults prefer milk chocolate to dark. Adults are twice as likely to buy milk chocolate when offered a choice.

*Americans will consume more than 16 million jelly beans on Easter, and dentists around the country will cheer when fillings get pulled out. Sixteen million! That’s enough jelly beans to circle the globe not once, not twice, but three times, or to fill a plastic egg the size of a nine-story building. According to the website, the most popular jelly bean flavor is buttered popcorn. Yuck!

* Pretzels are linked to Easter, too. Supposedly, it’s because the twists of the pretzel look like arms crossed in prayer. But what does dunking them in mustard stand for?

* Buying a new outfit for Easter stems from a superstition. Back in the mid-1800s, people believed that buying new clothes to wear on Easter would bring them good luck for the rest of the year. That was especially true if their family owned a clothing store.

* Back in 1933, composer Irving Berlin introduced the Easter bonnet into American pop culture with his ballad “Easter Parade.” Today, it’s still one of the most popular songs for the holiday.

* During medieval times, a very different game was played with eggs. The priest would throw a hard-boiled egg to one of the choir boys, then the choir boy would continue to toss it to his peers, and whoever was holding the egg when the clock struck 12 was the winner and got to keep it. Even if they didn’t want it after all those people touched it!

* Congress once outlawed Easter egg rolling. One of the most well-known Easter traditions in America is the annual Easter Egg Roll, which dates back to President Andrew Johnson. By 1876, the game had ripped up the Capitol’s landscaping and they didn’t have enough money in the budget to fix it. Sound familiar? So the following year, instead of appropriating more funding for the gardeners, U.S. Rep. William Steele Holman of Indiana introduced the Turf Protection Act, “to prevent any portion of the Capitol grounds and terraces from being used as play-grounds.”

* In 1878, little kids and their parents headed over to the White House, to see if they could do an egg rolling game there. Rutherford B. Hayes was the president then and he had a soft spot for Easter. That’s how the White House Easter Egg Roll was established in 1878. We didn’t need the old, stinky Capitol egg rolling! Now we had the White House south lawn.

But it was President Nixon who first included a bunny in the festivities in 1969, with a member of his wife’s staff as the lucky person who got to wear the costume. Little known fact: President Trump’s former press secretary Sean Spicer was the Easter Bunny during George W. Bush’s presidency. Not the whole time, just at the annual White House Easter Egg Roll.

* Easter is the second biggest candy-consuming holiday. It comes in second only to Halloween.

* It used to take more than a day to make a Peep. Back in 1953, when each candy Peep was handmade with a pastry tube, it took 27 hours to make a Peep. Today, machines speeds it up to about six minutes. And that’s good since we eat more than 600 million Peeps during Easter.

* Peeps are the most popular non-chocolate Easter candy. The Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, factory where they’re made makes an impressive one billion Peeps a year, or 4 million a day.

* Most Americans bite off the ears of a chocolate bunny first. A whopping 76% say that’s where they take their first mouthful, followed by 5% who eat the feet first, and 4% who eat the tail first.

* Brits celebrate Easter with fruitcake. The Easter simnel is a fruitcake dessert filled with apricot jam and topped with marzipan balls, which are meant to symbolize Jesus and his 12 apostles.

* Easter Island got its name because Dutch explorers in the 18 th century found the shores of Easter Island on Easter Sunday. Thank goodness it wasn’t on St. Patrick’s Day. That would be very odd.