Egg hunts were part of life long before they were wrapped into the Easter holiday.
Author of Stories Behind the Traditions and Songs of Easter
Whether you hide jelly beans in your living room, plastic eggs in your backyard, or dyed hard-boiled eggs in your local park, an Easter egg hunt is a fun way to celebrate both the Easter holiday and the arrival of spring. Even the White House gets into the act with a free online ticket lottery, allowing families across the country to participate in the annual event.
But how did the Easter egg hunt become a holiday tradition? We’ve decided to take a crack at opening the history of this colorful event and offer some ideas for hosting your own hunt this year.
How did Easter egg hunts get started?
Although Easter is a religious holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, many of its customs have pagan roots.
“When people convert to a religion, their past goes with them,” explains Ace Collins, author of Stories Behind the Traditions and Songs of Easter. “The egg has been a symbol of life since the beginning of time, and egg hunts were part of life long before they were wrapped into the Easter holiday.”
Eggs are an important food source. Throughout the centuries parents have sent their children out to hunt for eggs, Collins further explains.
One theory for the Easter tie-in is that early Christians often gave up eating eggs for Lent, the 40-day period leading up to Easter. Many people would decorate their eggs to mark their fast and then bring them to church to be blessed by the priest as part of the Easter celebration. Over time, this tradition of decorating eggs became intertwined with the Easter holiday.
We can thank German immigrants for bringing the Easter egg hunt to America in the late 18th century. Germans who settled in Pennsylvania brought their tradition of the egg-laying hare (called the “Osterhase” or “Oschter Haws”), and their children made nests and carried grass-lined baskets for their Easter eggs.
And where does the Easter Bunny fit in? Collins says that children often scared rabbits away from the meadows when hunting for eggs. As a result, some little ones believed the rabbits had left behind the eggs. “We would not have the Easter Bunny tradition without the Easter egg hunt,” Collins notes.
Today, although Easter remains a religious holiday, Easter egg hunts have become a way for children to have wholesome fun together. “Although we may now have plastic eggs and new ways to color and decorate eggs, the hunt itself has not changed through the years,” Collins says. “It still involves children trying to find as many eggs as they can.”
Tips for hosting an Easter egg hunt
The basics for staging an Easter egg hunt are easy. All you need are willing participants, baskets or other containers, eggs (hard-boiled, candy, or plastic), and an open space.
If you’re planning an outdoor event, make sure you have a backup location in mind in case the weather turns cold or soggy. Also, consider the ages and abilities of the children, placing eggs in places that are easy for the youngest participants to find and more challenging for older ones.
The rest is up to you. You can make things as creative and as competitive as you wish. Here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing.
1. Include words of encouragement
Instead of filling all the plastic eggs with candy or money, switch it up by placing some secret messages inside. You can explore the true meaning of the holiday with Bible verses or include expressions of love and kindness. Or what about including a voucher for a movie night or lunch “date”?
2. Use personalized baskets
3. Delight them with desserts
You are sure to see smiles when your kids or grandkids find yummy treats on their hunt. The Easter Egg Hunt Kit comes with 24 individually wrapped cookies as well as colorful stickers adorned with cute Easter sayings and symbols!
4. Don’t forget the chocolate
Who says you can’t hide a few chocolate bunnies along with the eggs? Nobunny, that’s who! Your kids will love the look and taste of this adorable foursome of Easter bunnies.
5. Try a scavenger hunt
You can tuck clues inside each child’s basket that take them from one location to another and ultimately lead them to a prize. Or give each kid a checklist of the different colored eggs they need to find. Make sure there’s no confusion during the thrill of the hunt by affixing these personalized wooden tags to each basket.
6. Plan a pre-hunt activity
Your participants may need a take-home box to keep their treasures safe. This DIY Decorate Your Own Easter Box includes four washable markers, an assortment of buttercream frosted cookies, and more.
7. Keep the hunt going at mealtime
8. Tally the count and offer prizes
As the event host, you’ll need to count the eggs you hide so you’ll know when they’ve all been found. Of course, the child with the most eggs should be rewarded, but you can also offer prizes for things like diligence and patience. These Easter Gift Tin Ornaments are the perfect prizes. Each one includes a selection of cookies and snacks, and comes with a hang tag that allows you to personalize it.