Focus: Symbols of Easter


Easter is a celebration of new life and there are many symbols that represent the Easter story.  Symbols make the story of Easter easier for our children to understand. Adults also like to use these representations during the season of Lent leading up to Easter. One of the ways to showcase various remembrances of Easter is to decorate an artificial tree with the help of your family. Easter symbols represent the life, death and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. You may see various homes with a purple bow in their yard or on the door of their houses. The purple bow represents the royalty of Jesus and the time from Ash Wednesday until Easter.

The most important Easter symbol is the cross on which Jesus died. The dogwood tree was once a large tree made of the strongest wood and was tall enough to be used for a cross. Jesus was crucified on the Dogwood tree. God made a promise that the dogwood tree would never be used as a cross again. He twisted the branches and made the tree smaller. God put a beautiful blossom on the dogwood tree to help tell a story. Have you ever looked at the blossoms of the dogwood trees? The blossoms are either pink or white and they each tell the story of Jesus’ crucifixion. The blossoms have two short petals and two long petals which represent the wooden cross. At the end of each petal, there is a dark red which represents the blood from the nail prints of Jesus’ hands and feet. In the center of the blossom, there is a circle of green representing the crown of thorns which was placed on Jesus’ head. Each petal is veined which represents the lashes given to Jesus prior to his carrying the cross up the hill to his crucifixion. The cross is the most important symbol as it represents Jesus’ victory over sin and death. It also represents the ever-lasting love of God.

The Lily is another important Easter symbol. The Lily comes out of the bulb which dies for the flower to grow. The Lily represents the pure life of Jesus. The Easter Lily is pure white in color symbolizing the purity, hope, new life of spring and its blossom is shaped like a trumpet making it the perfect herald for the fresh new season. The Easter Lily was discovered in 1777 by Carl Peter Thunberg in Japan. Ninety-five percent of all Easter Lilies are now grown in the U.S. and are one of the most popular potted plants in the U.S. ranking with poinsettias, mums and azaleas. The most famous Biblical reference to the Easter Lily is when Jesus said to his followers; “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. They do not toil and spin and yet Solomon in all his glory was not robed as well as they are.” It is believed that the lilies grew where Jesus prayed in the garden.

Another symbol of Easter is the Rooster. When Jesus was arrested, Peter said he would be there for Jesus. Jesus told Peter that he would deny knowing Jesus three times. With each denial, Peter would hear a cock (rooster) crow. This is written in the Bible.

The Egg represents fertility and rebirth-new life. The egg is also a symbol of the resurrection of Jesus. Many Christian customs include the egg as a reference to spring and new life. The egg was made a symbol of the resurrection and the empty shell a metaphor for Jesus’ tomb.

Another symbol of new life is the rabbit. On Easter, the Bunny Rabbit brings Easter baskets to the children filled with eggs and goodies. The Easter Basket is also a symbol of the Catholic custom for bringing food to the mass for blessings. The first notice of the Easter Bunny hiding eggs in the garden was published in 1680.

The Lamb is used as an Easter symbol because a lamb was the sacrifice of the Jewish Passover and it in turn became the symbol for Jesus’ sacrifice for us. Jesus is often referred to as the Lamb of God.

One of my favorite reflections of Easter is the Butterfly. I believe the butterfly best describes the life on earth, death and the resurrection of our new lives. If you want to share the Easter story with your children, use the butterfly. A caterpillar is the larva of the butterfly and represents life as we know it. The cocoon is the envelope spun by the larva which enters the cocoon. The cocoon represents the resting and changing that takes place at death. The butterfly which comes out of the cocoon is new, different, beautiful and flutters about sharing its beauty with the world. The butterfly is free to fly anywhere and represents the new life after death. The butterfly should attest to the God of Creation.                                   

A candle shining bright during Easter represents the light of the world. During Easter services, the candles are lit to commemorate the rebirth of Jesus after three days. Jesus brings new hope and a new beginning to the world. Jesus is the light of the world.

Did you know that Pretzels are a symbol of Easter? In some parts of the world, pretzels are served at the beginning of Lent which is from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday. Pretzels resemble a crossed arm folded in prayer which symbolizes penitence and fasting. The three holes in the pretzel symbolize the trinity.

The hot Cross Bun is a European tradition of the sweet bun enjoyed during Good Friday breakfast. The hot bun is marked with a cross on top as a sign of being blessed. The spices inside the hot buns are nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon and all spice, representing the spices used for Christ’s burial. Hot cross buns are a reminder of the death of Jesus and are used at the end of Lent.

Palm branches used on Palm Sunday represent the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. The Challis, or cup, represents the blood of Jesus and the bread represents the body of Jesus. Many churches have Holy Communion which is the representation of the Last Supper which Jesus had with his disciples.

All of these Easter symbols are teaching tools for making the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection easier to understand. God has given us His Son to show us the way to everlasting life. All we need to do is believe by faith that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary, lived and served God his father. Jesus was crucified to take away all of our sins. Jesus was buried, rose on the third day, ascended into Heaven and will return, again, to reign on earth. What a promise that is for all who believe in the Easter celebration of the life of Christ. We are given a choice. God has given us the directions. Jesus made the sacrifice for all. We have the choice of everlasting life. The choice is ours to make.

I would suggest that our churches share their Palm Sunday, Easter week and Easter Sunday arrangements in the newspapers, internet and tv so folks will know which churches are open and the times and locations of the services provided. We are fortunate to have many of our local and surrounding churches on YouTube with live streaming. If you cannot leave your home, you may partake in these services to make your Easter special.

I leave you with this verse.  John 3:16, “For God so loved the world so much that he gave his only Son so that anyone who believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it but to save it.”

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