Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter on the Kansas Prairie late 1800s by Sandra Crowley


I hope you and your family are enjoying this day of rebirth.

Easter on the Kansas prairie was sparse in the late 1800s. At least it was for those members of my family who left Germany and settled on the wind swept grasslands. Like the majority of pioneers, they worked long hard hours to establish farms they hoped would shelter and feed their families. They had little time for frivolities. However, Christmas and Easter warranted trips to Bloom or Delhi, the nearest Osborne County towns, to attend church and socialize, maybe join in an Easter Egg Hunt.

Ernest, Edo, Elsie Sunday-go-to-meeting duds
 I suppose the kids back then asked the same question I asked my mom decades ago, “Why does the Easter bunny bring eggs?” Two possible answers appeal to me. The first: Rabbits symbolize fertility. Fertility is the basis of spring. And, spring coincides with Easter, the time of rebirth. The second: German legend tells of an egg-laying hare named Osterhase that youngsters made nests for, leaving them outside for the rabbit to lay her eggs in. Osterhase might have evolved from the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and fertility, Eostre (or Ostara in German), who was said to have changed her pet bird into a rabbit to entertain children. The rabbit laid brightly colored eggs to the delight of the kids.

But, why eggs? Rabbits don’t lay eggs; they give live birth to bunnies. The answer could be that ancient romans believed all life came from eggs. Lent played its part, too, in Medieval Europe. The christian time of penance and fasting forbade consumption of eggs. Instead of letting the protein rich food spoil, Christians boiled their eggs or preserved them in some other manner until fasting ended on Easter. They were then the mainstay of that first meal. They were even given as presents to children or servants because many believed two yolks in an Easter egg meant the finder would soon grow rich. Christians of the time period also believed that if one kept an egg laid on Good Friday for one hundred years, its yolk would turn into a diamond. Considering how many things my family passed down through the years, I’m surprised we don’t have an egg or two among our treasures.

What we saved are adorable construction paper Easter Baskets we made as children in grade school. Do you remember those? Do you have one that your mother treasured and passed to you? Maybe you have one of your child’s tucked away in a baby book? They are the modern equivalent of the nests German children made for Osterhase centuries ago. Life continues, always changing, yet remaining the same.

Wishing you all the very best,
Sandra Crowley


  1. HAPPY EASTER, Sandra--this is perfect for Easter Sunday Morning. Here I am at my computer, checking mail just as sunrise, while others are hiding and hunting eggs..
    I've wondered, too, why the Easter Bunny brings eggs. The idea that those boiled eggs were the real precursors to finding eggs on Easter Morning.
    I do remember those little paper woven baskets, but I don't have one around anywhere--actually, I nothing saved from any Easter.

    I remember two Easters: one from first grade when my little sister and I got up to learn what the Easter bunny brought us. Mother said we had to search the house. Behind an open door to some room, we found two paper mache rabbits, painted, with a pouch filled with candy. We boiled and colored eggs later in the day. I did a post last year somewhere and actually Googled and found one of those paper mache rabbits--they're about a foot tall.
    The other memorable Easter was at my grandparents' house in the country--no running water, etc--and we had bright yellow satin dresses to wear to the community church. But mother hadn't sewn the buttons on the back yet, but she had brought them with her. She go sick and was in the hospital, so Daddy sewed on the buttons, dressed us, tied our sashes in the back, and we went to church.

    Thanks for the memories--blessings to you and everyone..Celia

  2. Sandy, perfect post for Easter. Until I read your post, I'd forgotten making those little construction paper baskets in school. I'd also forgotten the rabbits Celia mentioned, but I used to have one of those--wish I did now because they're collectible. LOL
    Thanks for happy memories.

  3. Now that's bizarre--I left a msg over 2 hours ago and it's not here. Sheesh. What didn't I do???

    Happy Easter to you both, ladies. I'm glad this post stirred good memories for each of you.

    Wishing you and your families all the very best,

  4. Sandy -- Great post. Traditions always are interesting. As a child, I was always fascinated with those eggs made out of sugar with the little paper cut-outs inside -- usually of bunnies. I remember seeing an exhibit at the Milwaukee Museum years ago about the tradition of coloring eggs. It was fascinating how some cultures pierced the eggs and removed the contents, then colored it, rather than boil the egg. I know in the Greek culture they only color eggs red to signify the blood of Jesus and the egg itself symbolized rebirth. Then there are the beautiful, jeweled Faberge eggs that started with Czar Alexander II wanting to give his Empress wife a special Easter egg. Anyway, thanks for bringing back some lovely memories, and enlightening me with some new customs I'd never heard.

    Also, are the children in your post ancestors from your family? Neat photos! ~ Ashley


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