History of the Easter Egg Hunt, With References

History of the Easter Egg Hunt!

How did Easter egg hunts become popular in the Spring, just before or on Easter Sunday?  First, let's describe an Easter Egg Hunt.

What is an Easter egg hunt?

An Easter Egg hunt is a game during which decorated eggs, real hard-boiled ones or artificial, filled with or made of chocolate candies, of various sizes, are hidden in various places for children to find. The game may be both indoors and outdoors. The eggs are hidden not to make their location and retrieval too difficult, as age appropriate. Churchs and schools frequently hold Easter egg hunts on a Saturday, the day before, or a week or two before Easter, on an open lawn, with sections segregated by age groups, so smaller children won't be deprived by larger children.

When the hunt is over, prizes may be given out for collecting the most eggs, or for the most eggs of a specific color, consolation prizes, booby prizes, etc. Often a special prize is hidden inside a very few eggs.  Commercial shops and local vendors may donate coupons for a free meal, etc.  to be hidden inside a few eggs. 


Background: Easter

The word “Easter” comes from the name “Eostre” or “Ostara” which means “spring” or “movement towards the rising sun.” According to Bede, the English monastic historian, the English word Easter comes from the Anglo-Saxon name for the month of April, which was known as "Eostremonath" in the AngloSaxon tongue. Eostra was the pagan goddess of fertility, and her name first appears among the Anglo-Saxon peoples of northern Europe in the 7th century. According to legend, Eostra always arrived in March or April and brought with her warmer weather and longer days – the vernal equinox. But Christians celebrated the resurrection of Christ long before the word "Easter" was associated with the event, and the word they previously used for the celebration was "Pascha", from the Jewish festival of Passover. Christian churches in the West celebrate Easter on the first Sunday following the full moon after the vernal equinox on March 21. Therefore, Easter is observed on a Sunday anywhere between March 22 and April 25 every year.

The Easter Egg Hunt

The custom of an Easter egg hunt began because children believed that the Easter hare laid eggs in the grass.

In South German folk traditions it was customary to add extra obstacles to the game by placing them into hard-to reach places among nettles or thorns.

Other activities common at Easter Egg Hunts 

Egg rolling

Egg rolling is very popular in England and is an Easter Monday sport. Hard-boiled eggs are rolled down a hill. Customs differ from place to place. The winner's egg may be the one that rolls the farthest, survives the most rolls, or is rolled between two pegs. In the United States in the early 1800's century, Dolly Madison, known for her parties, and the wife of the fourth American President, James Madison, organized an egg roll in Washington, D.C. She had been told that Egyptian children used to roll eggs against the pyramids so she invited the children of Washington to roll hard-boiled eggs down the hilly lawn of the new Capitol building! This continued, except during the Civil War. The event moved in 1880 to the White House for the Egg Roll when  officials  complained that the event was ruining the Capitol lawn.

Egg Tapping

Real eggs may further be used in egg tapping contests. If eggs filled with confetti left from Mardi Gras (cascarones) are used, then an egg fight may follow.  

Easter egg hunts for the visually impaired

Beeping Easter eggs are Easter eggs that emit various clicks and noises so that the visually impaired children can easily hunt for Easter eggs.
Some beeping Easter eggs make a single, high-pitched sound, while other types of beeping Easter eggs play a melody.

Easter Parades

See this page for the history of the Easter parade.