By Carolyn Tomlin
Contributing Writer, B&R
Passing a shop filled with Easter gifts, I noticed cuddly lambs, soft yellow chicks, and other baby animals in pastel shades. Nearby, the traditional Easter lilies filled the air with their distinct aromatic scent. Across the street, a bakery displayed hot-cross buns and pretzels focusing on the Easter season. And as a reminder of Jesus being raised from the dead in a glorified body, a beautiful butterfly fluttered above.
These are only a few of the representations associated with Easter. Perhaps, as adults, we are familiar with these signs, but do our children know the reason for these symbols? Do they know the ancient roots going back to the death and resurrection of Jesus? Look at a few of the traditional symbols of Easter and what they represent:
Symbolizing new life. The egg, chicks, and rabbit symbolize new life in Christ. Since ancient times, the egg has been associated with the spring season. Some people see the egg representing the tomb from which Jesus emerged when He rose again. When the chick breaks through the eggshell and hatches, this symbolizes new life.
Easter lilies. The fragrant Easter lily with its pure white blossoms symbolizes the purity of Jesus. The miracle of a bulb is a fascinating topic. A dried up, unattractive object is planted in the soil. God sends the rain for moisture, the sun for warmth. Within a few months, a small green shoot appears — still no indication of what is to come. In time, a stalk, leaves, and buds appear. Then, the miracle happens. The most aromatic fragrance one can imagine fills the air. The lily also symbolizes new life and the resurrection of Christ.
The lamb. Throughout the Bible, the gentle lamb is mentioned numerous times. The King James Bible lists the singular form “lamb” 105 times; the possessive “lamb’s” twice; the plural form “lambs” 81 times. A lamb is known to be a humble, tender, and gentle animal. The lamb represents Jesus, the Lamb of God. John 1:36, reads: “When he (John) saw Jesus passing by, he said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God’.” (NIV).
The cross. In Bible times, crucifixion was a punishment for a harsh crime and an instrument of execution. Death by this method meant a long period of suffering as the criminal did not die quickly. Yet, Jesus was condemned to die by being hung on a cross. Today, the cross symbolized Jesus’ victory over death. During the Easter season, many churches display a cross and Easter lily in the worship center.
Hot cross buns. Throughout the centuries, the meaning of the cross marking the hot-crossed buns is uncertain. Support is given to a 12th century monk, who may have been the first person to mark the bun with a cross. Filled with dried fruit and baked on Good Friday, the hardened bread honors the upcoming Easter. Traditionally the “cross” was made with a knife point or extra dough on the unbaked loaf. Today, a simple icing makes the shape of the cross.
Pretzels. A mixture of flour, yeast, and other ingredients form a pretzel — a food eaten during Lent. The pretzel was twisted to resemble the arms crossed in prayer and numerous stories exist as to the beginning. A familiar one: In 610 AD a monk from Europe used scraps of dough and formed them into strips to represent a child’s arms folded in prayer. The three empty holes present the Christian trinity. When a child memorized their prayers correctly, these were given as rewards.
The butterfly. The butterfly goes through a complete metamorphosis — which is a Greek word meaning transformation or change in shape. The four stages of the butterfly are the egg, larva, pupa, and adult. This transformation is symbolic of what occurs when Christ enters our life. During the Easter season, we are reminded of new life and a new birth.