I can remember as a young 7-year-old boy going to an Easter Egg-rolling Competition in Scotland. You are probably thinking — what is an Easter egg-rolling competition? Good question!
Easter egg-rolling seems to have Viking and Nordic roots. It is a custom in Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Scotland and the northern parts of England. Now US presidents even do it! Apparently, it is symbolic of the stone being rolled away, and so the egg-rolling is usually on Easter Sunday or Resurrection Sunday.
All you need to do to take part is hard-boil a raw egg, paint it up and take the said egg, in my case, to Arthur’s Seat a ‘braw’, big (excellent or better big in Gaelic) hill. Arthur’s Seat is a famous hill in Edinburgh.
I don’t remember anyone playing the bagpipe at this affair, neither do I remember anyone winning the egg-rolling competition.
The chief problems with the egg-rolling competition, in order of magnitude, from a child’s point of view were:
- The egg was very hard to roll in the tussocky grass.
- The egg was easily lost in the long grass.
- The egg was easily stepped on by other enthusiastic egg-rolling competitors.
Easter egg-rolling competitions are not for the faint-hearted. From a child’s point of view, it seemed like a colossal waste of time or as Shakespeare said, “Much Ado About Nothing.”
Thankfully, the Scots also celebrate the Easter Egg (chocolate variety) Hunt. This is celebrated all over the world, and I can see why. From a child’s point of view, this seems to be a much more rewarding Easter tradition. After all, the famous childhood saying holds true, “finders keepers’.
The only problem with the Easter Egg Hunt is that the evidence of winning is often consumed on the spot. How do you prove if you won the most eggs if you have eaten them?
Jewish female Rabbi Mychal Copeland would argue that the Easter Egg Hunt has Jewish, as well Christian roots from the Jewish Passover:
“When I was little, my mum made a huge deal of the Passover afikomen hunt. The prize for finding the broken pieces of matzah throughout the house was the hot toy of the day (I vividly remember the year of the Beanie Baby craze).
She also created an elaborate Easter egg hiding game in which one rhyming clue (starting on our pillows in the morning) led to another, with a big basket filled with eggs as the grand finale. What is the allure of the hide-and-seek element of both Easter and Passover? Do they have anything in common?
As early as the age of peek-a-boo, hiding and finding is a huge part of our development of object permanence. Dad leaves the room but it’s OK! He still exists and will come back in a minute. Just because we can’t see or hear something doesn’t mean it’s gone. Then, as we grow, the basic game of hide-and-seek excites us for an amazingly long stretch of years.
I have to imagine, as my kids are playing hide-and-seek with me at the park, that the moments when I can’t see them — while panicky for me — are exhilarating for them. A sweet taste of future independence. Perhaps our spring rituals capture the excitement and expectation of these early forays into mystery and autonomy.
Both Passover and Easter share a theme of rebirth in springtime. For Christianity, Christ’s rebirth is symbolized in the egg. On the seder plate we place an egg as a symbol of hope, recalling the Israelites’ escape from slavery and birth as a free nation. Although in Judaism, the egg isn’t hidden, both rituals harken back to celebrations of the bursting forth of life at this season that far predate either religious tradition and are shared by many peoples around the world.
But when did people start hiding Easter eggs? Legend has it that the Protestant Christian reformer, Martin Luther, held egg hunts in which men hid the eggs for the women and children. Some Christians have claimed the egg as a symbol of Christ’s tomb, symbolising His rebirth, and the hunt for eggs was likened to the hunt for Jesus in the tomb.
There are images of Mary Magdalene with an egg as well. The Easter Bunny didn’t enter the picture as the deliverer of those eggs until the 17th century.
The afikomen ritual clearly has vastly different origins, and there is no evidence that the hide-and-seek rituals are linked. Afikomen means “that which comes after” or “dessert” in Greek, and the hunt for it is a clever ploy to keep kids engaged in the often-lengthy seder until the end.
The kids’ elevated role is in keeping with the entire Passover experience; the holiday ritual is an elaborate scheme to pass the story of enslavement to freedom onto children.
How does it work? Early in the seder, the leader breaks the middle matzah on the table and leaves half of it as “dessert” to be eaten after the meal. Then after everyone has eaten, the leader cannot close the seder until the dessert matzah is found and eaten…
Articulate what you need out of the experience to feel personally and spiritually fulfilled. Together, explore the messages you hope your kids will take away from this season.”
I am not Jewish, but Rabbi Copeland’s exhortation that as fathers, together with our children, we “Explore the messages you hope your kids will take away from this season,” makes a lot of sense to me. It is sad to let a season go to waste. Christmas and Easter are the two preeminent seasons we celebrate in Australia. The third for those of us who live in Australia is Anzac Day on 25 April. Anzac Day was started by Christians, as a Christian remembrance celebration. All are related. All have Christian foundations. All celebrate the ‘giving of life’.
Interestingly, Anzac Day and Easter are the two most alike, from an Australian perspective. Each celebration has the same verse from the Bible, John 15:13 as its centrepoint. “Greater love has no man than this, that he gave up his life for his friends.” During Anzac Day we celebrate the soldiers that gave up their lives, paying the ultimate sacrifice to give us freedom. During Easter we celebrate Jesus Christ Who died and rose again (remember the egg-rolling competition) that we might have life and life more abundantly.
The Easter message is summed up in what many would regard as the greatest verse in the Bible, John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whosoever would believe in Him would not perish but have eternal life.” This is the Easter Message you must share with your children.
Yours for our Children,