Almost every Christian church in the West hosts an Easter egg hunt around Easter. The egg hunt may take place on Easter Sunday. It might also take place the day before, on Holy Saturday, or during Palm Sunday weekend. It will vary depending on the church, the congregation and what else is going on during Holy Week and Easter. Some churches prefer to stack their events. The Easter egg hunt, they say, will keep young children entertained while parents talk at the church picnic on Easter Sunday. Others prefer to separate them. Rather than try and wrangle the entire congregation at once, the church focuses on children one day or weekend and the adults the next. There is no right or wrong answer. It simply depends on each particular church’s situation.
Some Christians argue that there is a right answer to the question, and it has nothing to do with the timing of the event. In fact, they argue that churches should not hold Easter egg hunts at all. This particular group of Christians tends to argue that Easter egg hunts are pagan in origin and thus should never take place at a good Christian church. Others focus on how Easter has been excessively commercialized. Some would even argue that it has been more commercialized than Christmas. People may shop and buy more around Christmas, but at least most people are aware of what Christmas was originally meant to celebrate. There are plenty of people who have to think for a minute to remember what Easter is about underneath the mountain of fluffy bunnies and chocolate eggs.
Critics claim that Christian churches need to put a ban on Easter egg hunts to avoid supporting the slow erasure of the most important day in history or harming Christians’ eternal souls. Is a plastic egg full of candy, however, really that dangerous? Are Christian churches wrong to host Easter egg hunts, and are Christians wrong to support them?
One could argue all day about whether or not Christians should take advantage of the commercial trappings that surround holy days. On one hand, Easter baskets and Christmas presents are a good way to help children who are too young to understand the real meanings of the days feel part of the celebration. Presents and candy are also enjoyable ways for adults to observe the holidays. While it may be good for your soul, most people do not find silent prayer to be a great way to show joy and excitement over Jesus’ birth and resurrection. Special food and an exchange of gifts are more likely to be seen as carrying that excitement.
Easter eggs are certainly part of the commercialization of Easter, but that does not in and of itself make them wrong. They can be a great teaching tool for young children if they are used correctly. Children may not understand why it is so exciting that Jesus rose from the dead, and they are, hopefully, unaware of the sheer violence that filled Jesus’ final hours or the myriad options for the final cause of His death. For those few children who are aware, parents have likely spent most of Lent dealing with incessant nightmares and with good reason. Most adults are unaware of the true horror of a full Roman crucifixion, and it can be enough to turn even the strongest of stomachs.
Easter eggs are a better way to get across the point of Easter than a long lecture on the horrors of ancient Rome. After all, it is much easier for a child to comprehend that Jesus’ resurrection and the world’s resultant salvation is even better than chocolate eggs. Children are in many ways simple creatures. Salvation must be pretty awesome if it is better than a whole basket of candy!
Easter egg hunts also serve to bring people to churches who would not otherwise be willing to set foot on Christian ground. Members of other religions may let their children take part in Easter egg hunts because the affair is not, strictly speaking, Christian. This enables children and adults to converse with those who might have never heard the Gospel or have entirely the wrong perception of Christianity. After all, in many people’s minds, Christianity is all about solemn, serious prayer and sermons filled with fire and brimstone. While lifelong Christians might see the value in both of these things, potential converts are unlikely to be interested in what they see as a religion devoid of fun. Easter egg hunts can help offset that perception by showing that there is joy, light and love in Christianity as well as times of serious reflection and selfless service.
As for the supposedly pagan origins of Easter eggs, this statement shows up every Easter, but no one seems able to point to a specific pagan ritual that gave rise to Easter egg hunts. Eggs have long been a symbol of rebirth and fertility, but this has been true going back into early Judaism. If Christians are meant to avoid anything that has a hint of pagan history in it, they need to stop celebrating Christmas in December since the popular date for Christmas was deliberately placed on top of a Roman-pagan holiday to help persecuted early Christians hide their celebrations. Christians also then need to come up with new names for the days of the week since the English names are based on the names of ancient Norse gods. Thursday is literally “Thor’s day,” and Tuesday is “Tyr’s day.”
Rather than worrying about whether or not an unnamed and forgotten group of pagans may have once gone egg hunting in spring, Christians should be focused on the intentions behind their own churches’ egg hunts. Is the egg hunt meant to focus on the commercialization of Easter and elevate store bought chocolate above the resurrection of Christ? If so, it is time for the church to reevaluate its priorities on the holiest day of the year. If the egg hunt is meant, however, to encourage harmless family fun, children’s positive associations with church and Christian fellowship, let the hunt begin. May the best egg-finder win!